Your car should be able to tell if you’re too drunk or intoxicated to drive, NTSB says

Cars driving on a California highway
The NTSB wants cars that can detect drunk driving and automatically manage speed limits. | Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency responsible for investigating vehicle and plane crashes, called on the government to require all new vehicles to include technology that would detect drunk or impaired driving. weakened.

The recommendation was made in light of a horrific crash in Fresno County, California on New Years Day 2021 that killed nine people, including seven children. The accident was caused by an impaired driver who was driving too fast.

“Technology could have prevented this harrowing accident – ​​just as it can prevent the tens of thousands of deaths from impaired driving and speeding-related crashes that we see in the United States each year,” the president said. of the NTSB, Jennifer Homendy, in a statement, “We need to implement the technologies we have here, right now to save lives.”

The NTSB is asking federal regulators to require passive alcohol detection, advanced driver monitoring systems, or a combination of the two on all new vehicles. The council also recommends encouraging car manufacturers to adopt intelligent speed adaptation systems that would automatically limit a vehicle’s speed.

These systems engage in a range of activities, from issuing warnings when a driver exceeds the speed limit to electronically limiting the speed of the vehicle. Slower vehicle speeds have been proven to reduce injuries and fatalities in crashes.

It’s not the first time the NTSB has recommended automatic speed limiters for cars, but it has yet to gain traction with automakers, many of which market 0-60mph acceleration times of their vehicles as a selling point.

“We have to remember that technology is only part of the solution. To save lives on our roads, we need to look more broadly at the entire transportation system, which includes everything that can prevent an accident,” Homendy said.

The recommendations come amid an epidemic of deaths on US roads. According to preliminary estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9,560 people died in vehicle crashes in the first quarter of 2022, an increase of about 7% from the same quarter in 2021. This is the highest number highest first trimester deaths in two decades.

The idea of ​​using technology to prevent drunk driving has been bouncing around the auto industry for years, but with no real results. Just today, Volvo announced that its new electric model – the EX90 – will include a driver monitoring system that can read facial expressions and behavior to detect drunk driving or distraction. . Many vehicles on the road today include driver monitoring systems that track the driver’s facial or eye movements, but none reach the level that could detect impaired driving or emotional distress.

Of course, anyone who’s been convicted of drunk driving knows that a simpler technology already exists: a breathalyzer attached to the vehicle’s starter that requires the driver to submit breath samples in order to start your engine. However, the NTSB is calling for a more passive system, so it seems unlikely that a more active breathalyzer system will be considered.

The US Department of Transportation is currently evaluating a number of new technologies related to the prevention of drinking and impaired driving. The recently passed Infrastructure Bill gave the department three years to develop a requirement that new vehicles be fitted with “advanced drink-driving prevention technology”.

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