Anti-drunk driving tech explained

Can technology eradicate drink driving? A recent carwow poll suggests just that, with UK drivers believing electronic devices will be the best way to cut drink driving and save lives.

In the poll of 2000 people, carwow found that one in five believe drink driving can be effectively policed through the introduction of in-car technology, and 38% agree anti-drink driving technology should be fitted to all cars.

But what exactly is anti-drink driving technology, how does it work and is it likely to be fitted into your next car. Read on to find out more.

One such system is an alcolock, which is like a breathalyzer that’s hooked up to your car’s ignition. Blowing into the device measures your blood alcohol level and if it’s over the limit – 35 micrograms per 100ml of breath in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 22 micrograms in Scotland – your car simply won’t start.

According to the Government, drink-driving attitudes in the UK are hardening, but there is a problem of persistent drink drivers regularly reoffending. The Government is currently investigating whether alcolocks could be used as part of drink-drive its offender rehabilitation programmes aimed at changing the habits of these persistent offenders.

Similar technology has been thought up in the United States, where around 30 people are killed every day in drink-drive accidents. One system being considered uses sensors in the steering wheel or the engine-start button to analyse your blood alcohol level and prevents the car from starting if you’re over the limit.

In the carwow survey, respondents thought that Tesla was the most likely car maker to introduce anti-drink driving tech, but it is Volvo – inventor of the three-point seatbelt – that has committed to bringing it in soon.

It has a system where cameras and sensors monitor your actions and if you’re judged to be a danger, say you’re weaving all over the road with your eyes closed, the car can take the reins bringing you safely to a stop at the side of the road. You can expect this technology to be fitted to all Volvo’s cars from the early 2020s, along with a speed limiter restricting your Volvo to a top speed of 112mph.

Cameras can analyse the driver’s face to spot signs of being drunk

If this anti-drink driving tech sounds fancy, frustratingly, it isn’t – Nissan revealed tech like this in a concept car back in 2007.

It had an alcohol sensor built into the gear shift that could detect alcohol in your sweat. It also had odour sensors around that triggered a voice alert if alcohol was detected. Like the Volvo system, it also used a camera to s pick up behaviours that could indicate you’re drunk.

You can go even further back, though, to 2004 when the now-defunct Swedish carmaker Saab developed an alcohol-sensing key fob.

So technology’s not holding anti-driving measures back. Pressure has to come from lawmakers and consumers. But there may be an easier solution – autonomous driving tech.

Autonomous cars have been hailed as the solution to drink driving – just let the car take you home if you’re too drunk to drive yourself. In theory that sounds fine, but until cars are fully autonomous – which, being optimistic, is years and years away – humans will remain in control of a car.

Anti-drink driving measures could be part autonomous driving technology

And car makers, governments, insurers and not least the general public will want to be sure the drivers can’t abuse the semi-autonomous tech by being drunk or under the influence of drugs behind the wheel. So expect anti-drink driving measures to be introduced as more and more autonomous tech becomes available.

More of the carwow drink-driving survey results below:

Respondents selected which of the below statements they agree with:
There should be much bigger legal consequences of drink driving: 48%
There should be a zero-tolerance drink-drive limit of 10mg per 100ml of blood: 46%
All cars should be fitted with anti-drink driving technology as a legal requirement: 38%
All cars will likely have anti-drink driving technology installed before 2030: 30%
Drink driving can be effectively policed through in-car technology: 20%
I would be willing to spend more money on a car that had anti-drinking driving technology installed: 17%
Vehicle manufacturers have a responsibility to prevent drink driving: 15%
People would manage to ‘cheat’ anti drink driving technology, so it wouldn’t be widely effective: 15 %
It’s fine to drive after one or two drinks: 8%
I would get in the car with a driver who was under the influence of alcohol: 6%

Respondents were asked which of the following technology they think would be the most effective anti drink driving technology:

Compulsory breathalyser before unlocking ignition: 56%
Sensors to measure erratic driving/ steering patterns/ behaviour of the driver: 43%
Self-driving take-over when intoxication is detected: 31%
Cameras to focus on the driver’s eyes/ monitor pupil dilation: 30%
Physical movement sensors to detect if intervention is needed: 25%

Below are the top vehicle manufacturers respondents think will introduce anti drink driving technology to the public first:

Audi: 6%
BMW: 10%
Ford: 6%
Mercedes: 10%
Tesla: 16%
Volvo: 6%