A steering wheel that detects alcohol gases emanating from the palm of your hand has been developed by a company in Canada that hopes to bring the technology to consumers.
“Sober Steering” has been in a test program in school buses in Canada for the past 20 months.
Under the system, a driver turns on the ignition and then places his palm over a sensor on the steering wheel. In a few seconds, the system gives a green light or a red light. If it detects alcohol, it will immobilize the vehicle. It also requires the driver periodically retest as he drives.
In the case of bus drivers, the system notifies a dispatcher. In the case of a consumer version, a teen’s parents might be notified.
The sensors were developed by researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada, said CEO Catherine Carroll. They can detect if you’ve been drinking as little as 5 minutes after you ingest alcohol.
The system is not quite ready for the broader market. Hand sanitizers can interfere with the sensors’ accuracy. And in the case of every day automobiles, a passenger could use their hand for testing rather than the driver. But Carroll says these problems are in the process of being solved.
“Ultimately we see this tech being used in all cars,” said Carroll. “We see our technology becoming a replacement for the breathylizer and not just as a bandaid for convicted DUI offenders but in other types of vehicles to prevent drunk driving, not just respond to drunk driving incidents.”