The bipartisan infrastructure bill has a provision that mandates the unproven technology be incorporated into all passenger vehicles within the decade.
By Aaron Gordon
Buried deep in the 2,700-page bipartisan infrastructure billis a provision that mandates all cars manufactured from 2027 onwards be equipped with a drunk driver monitoring system, in the hopes of ending a behavior that results in about 10,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. If passed with this provision, the bill would give a firm release date to a research program the federal government and an automotive industry group have collaborated on for more than a decade.
Since 2008, an alphabet soup of acronym organizations have been working on a public-private partnership to invent a new technology that can prevent drunk driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) partnered with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), an industry group representing all the major automakers, to form the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety Program, which goes by the unfortunate acronym of DADSS.
DADSS is working on two separate detection systems. One detects blood alcohol levels in a driver’s breath through ambient air in the car cabin, supposedly distinguishing the driver’s breath from that of any passengers. The other uses a touch sensor with infrared lights that can be incorporated into the push-start engine button to detect blood alcohol level through the skin. Both are designed to be passive monitoring systems, meaning the driver doesn’t have to do anything to be tested. If, in theory, the system detects a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, the car will not be allowed to drive, but can remain on to power the climate control or charge a phone. The technology will be open-source licensed, so any auto supplier or manufacturer can use it “on the same terms,” although it won’t be free.
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