Cooley On Cars
The new DUI: How tech might disconnect drinking and drivingTough new laws and slick new tech might mean the end of driving's worst problem.
Yes, the great lubricants of motoring, oil and hootch. Unfortunately, a whole bunch of us pay more attention to this one than to this one. [MUSIC] Over 10,000 people die in alcohol related crashes every year throughout 30% of all road fatalities in the US. And over a million people are busted for DUI in this country. That's estimated, however, to be just 1% of the people who are out there driving under the influence and overall road fatalities in the US are up a big 24% since their bottom in 2011. So perhaps it'll come as no surprise to know that the national academy of sciences recently did a big study And had a big recommendation that we should lower that presumptive blood alcohol level from 0.8, and I recall when it was 0.10, down to 0.5. Interestingly Utah's already beaten them to the punch with a lot of that effect That starts at the end of 2018. But in many ways, tightening up those presumptive blood alcohol levels are nothing more than a little adjustment and already ineffective game of cat and mouse. Where's the technology to intelligently and consistently detect when you had too much of this. There are court mandated blood alcohol interlocks laden with installation, usage hassles, stigma, and a court order. One of the early efforts at putting a breathalyzer in your phone was ordered off the market, because it sucked. And there are, of course, scads of other pocket sized breath alcohol detectors. But the person who carries one and uses it regularly. Probably isn't the person who needs it the most. We a need an alcohol detection that is more integrated into our existing habits and existing tech. The state of Colorado recently did a pioneering test with 225 drivers asking them to use an Apple Watch accessory that measures blood alcohol by breath. One of the key takeaways was 79% of the participants said they might occassionally drive inebriated before they had that tech. Only 12% said they likely would afterwards. But the moon shot in all of this remains a federal program called DADSS. Driver Alcohol detection system for safety. It is fostering innovation among tech companies to come up with some kind of an alcohol detection system that is so full proof, so transparent, so low touch, that it would be a candidate to be installed in every car from the factory. As suppose to current alcohol detectors and interlocks That lurk in that world of court orders and stigmatized people with DUIs. Most efforts work at sensing the air in the cabin around the driver, often with a combination of infrared light inspection to measure alcohol molecules floating around. Also, perhaps, some kind of image recognition to verify who is admitting those molecules. And it might all be built into a smart start button, using skin alcohol detection. [BLANK_AUDIO] In Japan, Nissan's working on an even more ambitious system that detects alcohol via skin contact with the shift lever. You gotta grab that to get into drive, right? As well as ambient air sensors built into the seats. Facial recognition monitoring to see if you're drowsy or drunk and vehicle weave detection., All of that together seems to give a pretty good picture of your state. But so far we're talking a lot about harwarte an softwware. Experts tell us that the tricky part's gonna be in the wet ware that's you and me. Over at the McLean hospital's behavioral research center it's part of Harvard medical center. They're working on factors like how to read body type and age and ethnicity in doing alcohol essays like this as well as whether or not someone pounding two back at last call or whether they were drinking consistently and or were they munching on bar snacks or not. All of that changes how you read there level of inebriation Now, the final piece in this giant puzzle is the American Beverage Institute. They're the lobby and the trade group for America's bars and restaurants. And, as you can im\agine, they're not real fond of a system that would truly, utterly bar you from driving after having any alcohol. The ABI opposes court ordered in car interlocks for someone getting their first time DUI arrest. Saying the bar should be set at repeat offenders or first time offenders with blood alcohol levels of 0.15 or higher. The ABI is also opposed to any future plan of doing widespread factory installed alcohol detection in cars like is being developed under DADSS. Those systems they fear could be easily set to lock the car up at a 0.03 or a 0.04. Creating a virtual [UNKNOWN] on having a drink with dinner. Here's where it all gets really interesting. Down the road a few years we're gonna see an intersection on perfected technologies that can always and accurately measure your blood alcohol in the car. And you're gonna have to have a government regulation as to where the level is that you can start the car or not. Set it to zero and you may have just taken a lot of businesses, bars and restaurants out of business. Set it to 0.3 or 0.4 let's say, now you've got the government quantifying driving with a certain amount of booze in your system. There is no easy answer, but it's gonna be an interesting conversation. [MUSIC]