Knight Rider is Back – Future Cars May Make the Call on Whether its Driver is Drunk by Bo Kalabus

Knight Rider may be on the roads again in the future–and the only good news may be that this time it left David Hasselhoff at home. Seriously though, a prototype vehicle that uses automatic alcohol-detection sensors to instantly gauge a driver’s fitness to be on the road has the potential to save thousands of lives, but could be as long as a decade away from everyday use in cars according to federal officials and researchers.

The technology is being developed by QinetiQ North America, a Waltham, Mass.-based research and development facility. If successful, the systems would be able to measure whether a motorist has a blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit of .08 and – if so – prevent the vehicle from starting.

The sensors are being designed as unobtrusive, unlike current alcohol ignition interlock systems often mandated by judges for convicted drunken drivers which require operators to blow into a breath-testing device before the car can operate. This new approach has been dubbed The Driver Alcohol Detection Systems for Safety, and would use sensors that would measure blood alcohol content in one of two possible ways: either by analyzing a driver’s breath or through the skin, using sophisticated touch-based sensors placed strategically on steering wheels and door locks, for example. Both methods allegedly eliminate the need for drivers to take any extra steps, and those who are sober would not be delayed in getting on the road, so the researchers say.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety have jointly funded this research project to the tune of $10 million. Although the new technology is still in the early testing phases, it could be commercially available in the next 8 to 10 years.


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