Along with the new $1 trillion infrastructure package that will be signed into law shortly, comes a mandate to include technology to stop drunk driving in new cars as early as 2026.
It’s up the Transportation Department now to determine the best monitoring system to install in millions of vehicles. The bill doesn’t name ignition interlock devices, specifically. It only says technology must “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired.”
Guidehouse Insights says the most likely system selected will be infrared cameras that track driver behavior, wrote The Detroit News this week. This technology is already in use by General Motors, Nissan, and BMW. The IR cameras watch for signs of impairment and drowsiness and also make sure the driver is watching the road. The systems issue a warning to the driver in the case of an alert. A second warning then turns on the car’s hazard lights, slows the car and pulls it to the side of the road in vehicles with partial automated driver assist.
Guidehouse believes a mandated ignition interlock system would not be accepted by the general public.
There’s already plenty of speculation on the type of system that will be mandated. Gizmodo notes that 17 automakers have been developing a system that measures alcohol as you breathe almost normally, once you take the driver’s seat. This same system, called DADSS, also can measure blood alcohol level via infrared light when you touch the vehicle’s start button or steering wheel controls.
DADSS has started licensing its first generation system, where the driver blows a puff of breath (like blowing out a candle) into a sensor that can be placed in the steering wheel. The system provides a “near instantaneous reading.” But there’s no set date on when this technology will be on the market.
The alcohol detection mandate is part of $17 billion earmarked for road safety in the new infrastructure law.
Some other programs addressed in the law call for $7.5 billion to fund a national network of electric vehicle charging stations. The bill also sets a deadline for the Dept of Transportation to issue new updated headlamp standards. And it directs Congress to require automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings in all passenger vehicles by an unspecified date.
Approximately 10,000 people are killed each year due to alcohol-related crashes in the US. This accounts for almost 30 percent of all traffic fatalities says NHTSA.