The U.S. government’s recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill includes allocations for transportation safety. Part of that money is for a specific purpose: reducing the number of drunk driving accidents and deaths on highways in Minnesota and across the nation. As noble as this cause may seem, some take issue with the plan to mandate that every new vehicle must contain cutting-edge technology for detecting when a driver is impaired.
By 2027, all car manufacturers will have to include this technology in their new vehicles, which gives only a few years for researchers and developers to work out the problems. It also provides only a small window of time for the legislators to preempt the legal issues related to how this technology might violate your civil rights.
The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety Program is a partnership of various traffic safety agencies and auto makers. DADSS is developing two types of systems with the goal of detecting whether you have consumed alcohol before you get behind the wheel. Unlike a breath test that requires you to actively blow to provide a sample, these are passive systems that work in the background of your vehicle. The plan is that the systems will provide any of the following capabilities in your vehicle:
- Monitoring the ambient air in your car for levels of alcohol
- Recognizing your breath as the driver of a vehicle
- Sensing the level of alcohol in your body through your skin when you grip the steering wheel
- Using infrared lights on the push-start engine button to register alcohol in your system through the skin on your finger
- Allowing the vehicle to start, but preventing it from driving if it detects alcohol in your system over the legal limit
- Potentially storing data about your patterns of driving after drinking
You might be aware of the fact that even police-issued alcohol detection devices often fail or provide false results. While auto manufacturers hope to resolve the glitches in the new technology, those developing the devices are now under a time crunch and may be rushing the process. Several sensors are still in the testing phase, and the results have been unreliable.
Additionally, you may agree with analysts who worry about consumer privacy and the access law enforcement might have to your vehicle’s car data systems. In fact, it is likely that many of these legal issues will only find resolution when drivers end up in court, defending themselves against drunk driving charges.