Technological advances seem to come at an ever-quickening pace. We can read the New York Times on our cellphones, are told when to make a left turn by our cars and are informed by our shopping carts that macaroni is on sale this week.
Many legislators and others are hoping that one day soon, our vehicles will be able to analyze our breath for alcohol content and disable the ignition if the sensor detects a certain level of alcohol in the breath -- essentially eliminating the possibility of driving while intoxicated.
At least that's what advocates of research into this potential technological advance are hoping for. Whether the advance is possible, or even desirable, is another matter.
The U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would add $24 million to the $10 million already allocated for research into the motor vehicle alcohol detection devices.
Many people wonder if these sensors wouldn't be a lot like the ignition interlock devices now installed on New York DWI offenders' vehicles. The proposed technology wouldn't require drivers to breathe into a tube, as the interlock devices do now.
The two technologies being pursued today are more nuanced. One would involve a touchpad and lasers to detect alcohol in a driver's skin; the other would have sensors that sample and analyze the air near the driver for alcohol content.
Critics say the technologies would be set well below legal limits for alcohol content and worse, like every other digital gadget out there, they would sometimes fail, depriving people of their ability to drive.
One estimate pegs the number of sensor failures at 4,000 per day, meaning that number of people across the nation would be wrongly stopped from driving.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "DUI's new enemy: robocars," April 8, 2012
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