Speaker 1: Something historic unprecedented and quite surprising happened in 2020. No, not that a big spike in highway fatalities related to more drunk driving and less seatbelt use. Here are some technologies coming to address both whether you like them or not. The preliminary highway fatality numbers from the federal government have just come out and they're not good. The [00:00:30] line goes the wrong way. We drove 13% less in 2020 compared to 2019 due to the pandemic. Yet total fatalities went up 7% year over year, pushing 39,000. That sets us back about a decade and alcohol use and lack of seat belts. And often the two at once are cited as the two leading behavioral causes. Now we've all read about some [00:01:00] of the trends toward risky are behaviors that many people have exhibited during the stresses of the COVID pandemic. And I'm certainly not here to offer myself as any expert on what that's all about, but here are some technologies that might bend the curve of what that risk taking is causing in the automotive sphere.
Speaker 1: For example, that trillion dollar infrastructure bill being debated in Congress, at least as of our taping here early August 21 [00:01:30] has a section in it that would require within three years, the federal government transportation regulators set up some safety guidelines for how an alcohol detection system would work in cars. And I'm to talking about all new cars going forward, then give automakers just two years to come up with a way to implement it and have a far deadline of 10 years by which if it can't be fully accomplished, you get called back onto the carpet in front of Congress to explain why [00:02:00] now you can be sure what's being envisioned in this regulatory language is not that every car suddenly gets one of those clunky alcohol detectors that are often court mandated when you've had a DUI or two or three. Instead, we're talking about a push toward passive alcohol detection where you barely do anything except get in the car and drive. I recently did a video rounding up a number of passive alcohol detection technologies that you may want to take a look at. They all come at it from some different [00:02:30] angles, but I think outta that horse race, someone's gonna crack the code on acceptable passive alcohol detection in every car sold new,
Speaker 1: But perhaps even more notable is the recent news from acts the automotive coalition for traffic safety, working with a federal program called dads driver alcohol detection system for safety that they now are ready as of late 21 to offer up the source code for a blueprint on a system that can go [00:03:00] into commercial vehicles ASAP, the driver gets into the cabin of their commercial vehicle, whatever it may be. And they puff a little breath of air to a sensor in the vehicle. Wait for that to have a quick reading. If it's anything above zero detected alcohol, the vehicle is locked out. Now, two things going on here. One, a little puff of air that is intentionally directed and two zero tolerance of alcohol that makes this system easier in commercial vehicles than the more nuanced version we would need. And they say they can do this by 2024 [00:03:30] for private vehicles that would require no puff of air.
Speaker 1: You just get in the vehicle and your exhalation is already measured automatically. And two, it can be calibrated to a particular level based on the state. You're in 0.0, eight's the most common, but many states have been talking about bringing that down. A few points in any event, it's harder in the average person's car than in a commercial vehicle, but you can see the March of progress toward both the other half of this trendline [00:04:00] toward greater highway fatalities has been reduced. Seatbelt use about half of all highway fatalities in 2020 were attributed to someone not being belted in. They either went bouncing around the inside of the cabin, which even despite the airbags, not a pretty scene or got ejected from the car, both of these big consequences of not being it in.
Speaker 1: So how do we approach this? You may not know this, but in 19 73, 19 74, there was a single [00:04:30] year when a law in the books said vehicles must have technology. So the belt is buckled, closing an electric circuit loop before the car can. It didn't last long. There was a human cry to Congress by members of the public. And they actually rescinded this safety regulation after just about a year. That's pretty historic in itself. Safety rules usually only go one direction. The Vence of hatred toward [00:05:00] the safety interlock was matched perhaps only by the amount of hatred. There was a couple decades later in the nineties when automatic motorized seat belts arrived on the scene. Remember these little part of the belt on a mouse track would come up here and attach up by your shoulder. Then when you got out, the thing would go back again.
Speaker 1: For some reason, people hated these things. I didn't particularly mind them, but maybe I'm weird. Bottom line is there's a lot of pushback out there when you try to enforce a technology that requires seatbelt [00:05:30] use in cars, go figure, but today's car buyers are decades later and different. We've become very used to the fact that safety is job. One in a car that used to be seen as kind of a Wey position decades ago in a more machismo era. And I think a younger car buyer today really looks for a car that is safety. First other stuff. Second, third, and fourth. I think there's a place to put these technologies on the stage again, but general [00:06:00] motors has already gone there. They've got something called buckle to drive technology. It was announced right before the pandemic hit. I think a lot of people didn't notice it.
Speaker 1: I know I didn't on a Chevy traverse. For example, in teen driving mode, a mode you can set, that's tied to a particular key for the car. A, the car will start with the belt, not connected. That's fine, but the car will not go into drive for 20 seconds. Just long enough to be really annoying. Try getting in your car, especially with a teenager's patience and [00:06:30] sit for 20 seconds before you can drive off. That'll do the trick or look at some late model Subarus that have a chime reminding you, you to buckle up. That actually has a carrot when you're stopped. It stops chiming. As soon as you move again, you get the stick, the chime comes back and it gets louder. The faster you drive until it's quite loud, you can imagine other versions of this as well. Maybe the car only goes to a certain speed, 15 or 25 belt undone, at least for the driver, maybe the audio [00:07:00] system won't come on. If the belts are not connected for every seat, that can sense that there's someone sitting in it. And how do we do that? Well, that's easy.
Speaker 1: Today's airbags already use seat and occupant sensing often graded to the point of it telling how heavy someone is, therefore calibrating the airbag that's in front of them. So a lot of the infrastructure for smart seat belts that know which ones of themselves should be buckled is already largely in place. [00:07:30] Now I know some of you are automotive traditionalists and saying, I don't want some chip monitoring my belt. And if that chip goes outta, I can't drive my car. I have news for you. Every single thing in your car, including the power windows, the sunroof, the turn signals is run by a chip. So the idea that chips are gonna fail, uh, because they're exotic. Isn't really the case anymore. If your car fails a lot, then you got a bad car, but for the most part, every vehicle's run by little electronic assessors and lots [00:08:00] of sensors, and they seem to work pretty well. I don't have a lot of fear. This is gonna be a brittle technology. If we apply it to a seatbelt interlock, even if we didn't have this spike in fatalities due to alcohol and lack of seatbelt use in 2020, the drumbeat is on technologies are there. And if we can't apply them to cars, reliably and affordably in the foreseeable future, so that cars themselves can play a role in divorcing [00:08:30] themselves from risky behaviors that lead to death. The onus is honest to do so.