What Technology Will Infrastructure and Jobs Act Use to Stop Drunk Driving

While President Bidens Investment and Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA) does require automakers to incorporate advanced impairment detection technology, and sets a timeline for doing so, it is soley up to the Secretary of Transportation to define what the specific technology solution will be. The only guideline in the IIJA is that the technology be “advanced” and “passive” and that it either measure driver impairment through driver performance, measure driver intoxication by analyzing the driver’s blood alcohol level, or both.

MADD Has Already Made Suggestions

MADD was instrumental in the drafting and passage of this legislation, and have indicated that such AIDP will:

  1. Measure impairment by monitoring vehicle movement by way of vehicle warning systems that measure things like lane departure.
  2. Measure driver impairment by monitoring the movement of the driver’s eyes and/or head, usually by use of an embedded camera.
  3. Measure a driver’s blood alcohol level with embedded sensors that sample, evaluate and measure the amount of alcohol in a driver’s breath or passive perspiration.

What Currently Existing Technologies Might be Utilized and Adopted by the Secretary of Transportation?

Systems that monitor vehicle movement, including various kinds of autonomous driver assistance technology have already been introduced by all the auto manufacturers and the SOT is likely to first consider the feasibility of adapting this technology for the intended purpose. These systems can already detect if a driver appears to be falling asleep, distracted, or suffering a medical emergency. Refining them to reliably detect driver impairment from drugs and/or alcohol vs. other kinds of impairment might be difficult when acting independently. However, when combined with alcohol sensing technology, such discernment may be possible.

General Motors, BMW, and Nissan have developed and started offering embedded infrared cameras that constantly monitor a variety of factors to confirm that the driver’s attention is on the road. If the systems detect indicators of impairment or loss of consciousness, then the driver is first altered and offered the opportunity to correct their driving. If the impairment continues then the vehicle will begin to slow down and eventually will be disabled, bringing the vehicle to a safe stop.

The more controversial technology involves measuring a driver’s blood alcohol level because doing so will always carry with it some degree of measurement uncertainty. Perhaps the current leader in the development of this technology is that coming out of research engaged in by Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety Program (DADSS), which is a private/public partnership with the federal government (NHTSA) and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS). Durability reliability and precision. Breath test technology developed by SenseAir. It measures the amount of carbon dioxide, and if detected alcohol, in a breath sample using infrared technology.

Carbon dioxide is used a bit like a yardstick in measuring the alcohol on the basis that the amount of carbon dioxide in human breath is about 4.1%. By comparing a ratio between a measurement of CO2 and a measurement of alcohol, a BAC can be determined. The measurement is made using the same basic infrared technology found in the desktop breath analyzers found in police departments around the country.

Accordingly, a sample of passively expired breath is captured after which the device directs an infrared light beam on the breath sample. The device then analyzes the wavelengths to arrive at the ration described above.

An additional option also being developed by DADSS is a touch-system using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR), which is a spectroscopic technique that allows a rapid analysis of a driver’s blood alcohol. To do this the device shines a light through the driver’s skin, then measures the energy absorbed/reflected to determine the amount of alcohol in the driver’s blood. The sensor can be placed anywhere a driver’s skin would come into contact with an embedded sensor, such as an ignition button, gear shift or steering wheel.

For information on the timeline for adding this technology, please see: Advanced Impaired Driving Technology Could Begin Stopping Drunk Drivers in Two Years.

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