NHTSA wants to stop cars working if the driver is drunk

Drunk driving continues to be a problem in the modern age of motoring, despite the endless campaigns to show people its dangers and the fact that getting caught can mean the loss of the driver’s license, possibly their job and even jail time. However cars of the future may not allow those who are intoxicated to even start the engine since the vehicle will have built in sensors to detect their blood alcohol level.

This is something that was proposed by the Naitonal Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has teamed up with carmakers Ford, GM and Volkswagon, to develop a system which can detect whether a person is over the limit and therefore unsafe to drive a vehicle. A prototype was trialled, which included a breathalyser mounted to the steering wheel and a start button with an infrared light source that was able to read blood flow and aid in checking the level of alcohol in the driver’s blood.

It seems likely that the latter system is the more intuitive and likely to be accepted by consumers who simply don’t want the hassle of a breathalser every time they drive, especially if they aren’t drinkers or suffer with a health concern like asthma. However the US is not planning to make any of the technology mandatory for manufactures, though it may be offered as an option for new car buyers.

You may wonder who might pay for such a system voluntarily, but it may prove to be a useful tool for parents, who are worried about their child driving while intoxicated. In those instances, customisable limits may be set that allow the parents to set it at zero, rather than the .08 that current US law stipulates. Commercial fleet managers may also consider it for drivers that are at risk of drinking on the job.

“Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety has enormous potential to prevent drunk driving in specific populations such as teen drivers and commercial fleets, and making it an option available to vehicle owners would provide a powerful new tool in the battle against drunk driving deaths,” said Mark Rosekind, current head of the NHTSA (via the Guardian).

It may be that this sort of technology is cheap enough in the future to make it a standard in commercial vehicle construction, though whether this will be necessary for long remains to be seen. With automated vehicles just around the corner, commercial ones are likely to be hit hardest before anyone else.



    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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