Every new car will have to have a system capable of telling if its driver is drunk as early as 2027, at least that is what provides for one of the provisions of the new infrastructure project that is being debated in the United States Congress. The aim of lawmakers is for the automotive industry to play a more active role in accidents prevention.

While it sounds like a pretty good idea at first glance, there are still some issues, minor ones, it's true, that testify against the idea of ​​getting cars to report that their drivers are drunk. One of the biggest problems is the technologies of existing alcohol detection currently or in the process of development.


false positives

A capful of mouthwash
Some products, such as mouthwashes, can cause so-called false positives. Credit: Odontoclinic/Disclosure

Currently, breathalyzers that can be attached to cars to check whether or not drivers are driving drunk have a relatively low error rate, but such a rate exists. This means that if all drivers had to blow one of these devices to start their cars, there would be a considerable number of sober people who would not be able to work.

This is because there are so-called false positives, which are those anecdotal cases where breathalyzers catch people who have had contact with products that contain alcohol, such as mouthwashes, craft chocolates formulated with some alcoholic beverage, like a liquor bonbon for example, but they didn't drink it effectively.

However, it seems that this type of equipment is not what the project foresees that the cars will have, as the project does not refer by name to any equipment or technology. According to the magazine Vice, this seems to imply that the technology used is something that does not yet exist, that it would be developed with government funding for the next six years.

How to measure?

Sensor that measures the level of alcohol in the blood
Researchers are testing ways to get the alcohol level measured by the skin. Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Currently, governments and auto industry agencies are working on two systems designed to catch drunk drivers in the act. One of them monitors the air inside the car for alcohol smells, but it remains to be seen how this system would differentiate drivers and passengers to avoid false positives.

A second measures blood alcohol levels through the driver's skin, this happens the moment he presses a button that starts the car. This system, however, is “binary” and only says whether or not there is alcohol in the driver's blood, but it is not able to determine if the concentration is below, within or above the legal limit for that region.

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But organizations involving the auto industry and government agencies say they are working on upgrades that should make the technology more accurate and even less intrusive. Therefore, its developers believe that the system should be ready for use as early as 2027, which is when the new legislation will take effect if passed.

With information Futurism

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