Last week the senate passed "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century". In that bill, $24 million is allocated to research for a "Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety". In trillion dollar budgets, a mere 24 million is a pittance, but I think it is still a waste of our money and, if implemented, an unwarranted violation of our rights. Sure, everyone wants to stop drunk driving, but do we all want to be punished and have to pay for a system like this in every car. Cars are expensive enough. Of course some groups, like MADD, think this is a wonderful idea.
If something like this gets designed and approved for use, I wonder how long before they start malfunctioning. Will the new reason for being late to work that my darn driver alcohol detection system (DADS for short?) messed up? To which the boss will give a raised eyebrow? The more complicated stuff gets, the more crap there is to go wrong.
Courts already have breathalyzers installed in cars of habitual drunk drivers. So they get someone else to blow it. Then the Courts install cameras. Even when the driver is sober as a judge, they have been known to malfunction and lock the ignition. What ever the issue, the systems that are used now are far from perfect. For the next generation, there are several types of designs being considered.
Besides the potential for malfunctions, I see a magnitude of flaws in design of a one size fits all system. First up, a touch pad or sensors in the steering wheel: What if I wear driving gloves or its winter and I am wearing my thickest wool mittens. Sensor shined on the forearm: Except for the middle of summer, I likely have long sleeves on because I am cold most of the time. Sensors near the driver's head: What if I used a lot of mouthwash or I used a lot of hand sanitizer (trust me, that crap has a butt load of alcohol and it is detectable). What if the person is diabetic and is exhaling acetone. Don't assume that CSI mimics life. Chemical specific testing is a bit more sophisticated than your typical breathalyzer, which typically looks for a methyl group and assumes its ethyl alcohol even if its not.
Is drunk driving still a problem? Yes. Sweeps around where I live may nab 20 to 30 drunk drivers. But should DADS be installed on cars? No thanks. The scary part is that this is not the beginning - Phase I prototypes have been developed, so it might be jammed down our throats before we know it.