New Landmark US Law Will Require Future Cars To Include Drink-Driving Tests
By Alexa Heah, 19 Nov 2021
Image ID 71974896 © via Anyaberkut | Dreamstime.com
This week, in a landmark mandate, President Joe Biden approved a new legislation that will require upcoming vehicles to identify intoxicated drivers via breath sensors or finger scans.
The reaction has decidedly been mixed. While advocates posit the law will help save thousands of lives yearly, some skeptics are concerned that false positives could result in drivers being unable to access their cars, or that the data will be used to prosecute individuals by law enforcement.
“I’m crying tears of joy today. This is the beginning of the end of drunk driving,” Alex Otte, national president of Mothers Against Drink Driving (MADD), told ABC News.
At the moment, the rules surrounding this technology have yet to be spelled out by regulators, though the first of such vehicles is only expected to head to market sometime in the next several years.
One technology which could be used was created under the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) scheme, in which researchers invented minuscule sensors that can draw in a driver’s breath to test if they’re over the legal limit.
Robert Strassburger, the president of the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, said that the researchers have also gone one step ahead, building anti-cheat safeguards into the system.
“We all emit carbon dioxide as we exhale and as long as you are in a range of CO2, then we know that sample was coming from the driver and nowhere else,” he explained.
Another option would be a finger scanner, which could measure blood alcohol levels under the skin’s surface using infrared technology. The scanner could be added to a vehicle’s ignition button, or be a separate component needed to start up a car.
“If the passenger were to reach over and touch the sensor, the circuit would not be completed and an [alcohol testing] measurement would not be taken,” Strassburger said, referring to how the technology would be able to spot if someone else tried to start the car instead.
Understandably, there are experts who feel that the addition of such features could be too intrusive, or end up being an invasion of one’s privacy. Laura Perrotta, president of American Highway Users Alliance, said that while the idea was a good one, it may not work in the real world as smoothly as intended.
“Someone uses mouthwash and goes to turn on their car and can’t get it to start, but then someone else has one too many drinks and it doesn’t detect it. That could be a real problem,” she said.
Some are also questioning if the government has the right to implement such regulations in cars, which could be considered to be “monitoring” citizens.
“This is no less illegal than if the government mandated that the phone company installed wire taps in everyone’s home just to make sure that they don’t commit a crime in the future,” said Albert Fox Can, founder of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project.
Strassburger doesn’t see it that way, saying that there already are limits in place for other information-gathering technologies, such as smartphones or virtual assistants, and that law enforcement would need to produce a warrant in order to obtain the information.
“Vehicle manufacturers are going to make that ultimate decision or they will be commanded by policymakers,” he said.
[via ABC News, cover image via Anyaberkut | Dreamstime.com]
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