Coalition Explores Drunk Driving Prevention Systems

Thousands of lives could potentially be saved annually if a joint project by the The Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ?(NHTSA) is successful. ?Studies indicate that keeping drunk drivers off the road could save more than 8,000 lives annually. ?With that goal in mind the coalition is hoping to develop an ignition interlock that will prevent drivers from driving while intoxicated.? Aftermarket ignition interlocks have been successful in reducing impaired driving among convicted drunk drivers, but existing systems require a breath sample every time the vehicle is started in a process that would prove to be too cumbersome for the general public.?

The 5-year, $10 million project is called DADSS (Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety) is being funded equally by ACTS and NHTSA. ?ACTS has also formed a Blue Ribbon Panel of experts to advise the project, including automotive manufacturers and suppliers, public interest organizations, highway safety researchers, domestic and international government agencies, and medical and behavioral scientists.

Two approaches have been identified that have considerable promise in measuring driver blood alcohol content (BAC) non-invasively: 1) Tissue Spectrometry, a touch-based approach allowing estimation of alcohol in human tissue, and 2) Distant Spectrometry that will allow assessment of alcohol concentration in the subject?s exhaled breath.

In the touch-based approach, measurement begins by shining an infrared light on the user?s skin (similar to a low power flashlight). A portion of the light scatters several millimeters through the user?s skin before returning back to the skin?s surface where it is collected by the optical touch pad where it is quickly analyzed to determine the tissue alcohol concentration.

The breath-based approach makes it possible to perform a contact free, unobtrusive measurement of the driver?s breath alcohol by using the concentrations of carbon dioxide as a measure of dilution of the exhaled breath of the driver. This system uses multiple sensors placed in the vehicle cabin that will determine that the sample is from the driver and not other passengers.

Based on the results of prototype testing, sensors demonstrating both approaches will be judged for speed and accuracy before the best systems move on to Phase II development.

Two technology providers have been identified for the Phase II effort: Autoliv Development AB of V?rg?rda, Sweden; and TK Holdings who are working with TruTouch Technologies, Inc. of Albuquerque, New Mexico. ?The goal of this development is to have a research vehicle available, by the first half of 2013, to demonstrate these technologies.


More from Our Auto Expert