In 2016, nearly 11,000 Americans died due to alcohol-induced accidents. It’s clear that drunk driving is an ongoing public health crisis in the United States. Today, lifesaving vehicle technologies are being tested and deployed at a quicker pace than ever before and new safety features and technology are addressing risky driver behavior head-on. Although there is plenty of room for growth, these early efforts continue to help pave the way.
“The statistics surrounding cases that involve individuals driving while intoxicated are grim,” says David Hunter Law, a DWI attorney in Fort Bend county. “Of course, every case is different, and there are plenty of factors that determine who’s at fault, but the overarching goal is always to keep our roads as safe as possible.”
Breathalyzer for Vehicles
Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) is a government-funded research organization in the process of developing cutting-edge vehicle technology to prevent drunk driving accidents. One of those technologies is breath detection; sensors mounted in front of the driver would detect blood alcohol levels from the driver’s breath.
In this instance, the driver doesn’t need to be aware that they are being monitored. When the driver breathes, the concentration of carbon dioxide and ethanol molecules in the body produce a certain wavelength, which is measured from the sensor. If that ratio is unbalanced, the car would not start.
Currently, there are already breathalyzer devices that can be installed in vehicles and are mandated by the state. However, in the future, we can expect these devices to look less like the traditional “blow” devices that stand out. Furthermore, they’ll be more deeply integrated into the anatomy of the car itself.
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) play a major role in the future of vehicle technology. According to a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, widespread ADAS features could save roughly 9,900 American annually in the United States. Although they are built to underpin self-driving cars, they are currently also incorporated into some standard vehicles today, and their primary features help prevent collisions caused by human error.
But what is ADAS, exactly? In layman’s terms, it is a collection of features—delivered through a combination of sensors, lasers, and cameras—that make roads safer. These features include smart blind spot detection, lane departure warnings, collision warnings, and much more. Overall, it can identify conditions and objects in the immediate environment. In the future, these systems will provide partial autonomy, allowing to brake on the driver’s behalf during emergency situations.
With touch analysis, the driver’s finger is scanned when they push the “start” button in a vehicle (the device may also be placed in an area that mimics the location of a “start” feature). Alcohol levels can be measured underneath the surface of the skin using an infrared light scanner. This is achieved using the spectroscopy technique, which utilizes electromagnetic radiation to analyze the skin tissue.
Manufacturers and researchers are also considering various ways to prevent the owner of the vehicle from using someone else’s fingerprint to start the vehicle, like a touch-ID system that’s programmed to the driver’s fingerprints. Think of this like the “Home” button of Apple mobile devices; only your fingerprints can unlock the device.
While the aforementioned prevention strategies are centered around hardware technology integrated into vehicles, there has also been an increase in the number of mobile applications designed to prevent drunk driving. For instance, Alcohoot is a breathalyzer that syncs to your iPhone and Endui is a blood alcohol calculator with a slew of reflex games that test your ability to concentrate and operate a vehicle.
Even ridesharing and car service apps help eliminate some of the confusion. Case in point: StearClear is an app that connects you with professional drivers who can safely get you AND your vehicle home. Although these apps aren’t as foolproof as hardwired tech, they do help facilitate the process of getting intoxicated drivers safely from Point A to Point B.