US researchers are developing breath-based and touch-based sensors to be installed in cars to prevent drunk drivers from starting their engines.
"The idea is to develop a sensor that could detect if anyone is above the legal limit of .08 and prevent them from moving the vehicle and
driving," researcher Bud Zaouk said.
"With the touch-based detector, you press the start button and it starts the vehicle. And it will be a small infrared light that shines inside the finger," Bud said.
The infra-red light looks for alcohol in the finger's tissue, CBS News reported.
"Alcohol has its own unique optical signature, and if the optical signature registers above .08, then the vehicle prevents you from moving," Bud said.
The sensor in the breath-based approach is located around the steering wheel.
"That infra-red light excited the molecules and allows you to find out how much alcohol you have in the breath. It's non-contact, non-invasive," Bud said.
The USD 10 million funding for Bud Zaouk's project is split between 16 carmakers and the federal government.
However, it is opposed by the American Beverage Institute, which represents 8,000 chain restaurants in the US.
"Drunk driving fatalities are at historically low levels. We shouldn't try to solve what's left of the drunk driving problem by targeting all Americans with alcohol sensing technology," the group said.
Bud said the technology still needs work.
"I think at this stage we are probably looking at eight to 10 years, when you would start seeing it inside vehicles," Bud said.
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