Driver Alcohol Detection Systems for Safety By QinetiQ (And PKD)
The Driver Alcohol Detection Systems for Safety is a system for cars that would decide whether or not you've had too much too drink - and deny your driving privileges if it thinks you're over the limit.
There are some existing systems that require drivers to blow into a tube; see these articles on the Ignition Interlock (required for NY drunk drivers), the Toyota Ignition Breathalyzer Lock and even a robot teddy bear.
The Driver Alcohol Detection Systems for Safety system, however, can use sensors on steering wheels and door locks to determine your blood alcohol level via skin contact.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited QinetiQ North America, a Waltham, Mass.-based research and development facility, for the first public demonstration of systems that could measure whether a motorist has a blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit of .08 and – if so – prevent the vehicle from starting.
David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, also attended the demonstration and estimated the technology could prevent as many as 9,000 fatal alcohol-related crashes a year in the U.S., though he also acknowledged that it was still in its early testing stages and might not be commercially available for 8-10 years.
The systems would not be employed unless they are "seamless, unobtrusive and unfailingly accurate," Strickland said.
The initial $10 million research program is funded jointly by NHTSA and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, an industry group representing many of the world's car makers.
In the demonstration, the system was sufficiently sensitive that it allowed a test subject to start a car with a blood alcohol level of 0.06, which is legal. The woman was in her 20s weighing about 120 pounds; she drank two, 1 1/2 ounce glasses of vodka and orange juice about 30 minutes apart, and ate some cheese and crackers in between to simulate a typical social setting.
Philip K. Dick is way ahead of us in his 1963 novel The Game Players of Titan:
It had been a bad night, and when he tried to drive home he had a terrible argument with his car.
"Mr. Garden, you are in no condition to drive. Please use the auto-auto mech and recline in the rear seat."
Pete Garden sat at the steering tiller and said as distinctly has he could manage, "Look, I can drive... Start, darn it!"
The auto-auto said "You have not inserted the key."
"Okay," he said, feeling humiliated. Maybe the car was right...
(Read more about Dick's alcohol-sensing system)
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