Kaushik Ray, left, and Ashirbani Saha

Kaushik Ray, left, and Ashirbani Saha.

As Nestor E. Arellano writes for ITBusiness.ca:

The idea of using a vehicle-interlock system that disables an automobile when sensors detect an inebriated driver has been around for some years now. One of the major hurdles though is that alcohol sensors can be fooled. For instance, one person can take the sobriety test and another person can do the actual driving.

To alleviate that problem, two electrical engineering students at the University of Windsor in Canada have been developing a facial recognition system. The students, Kaushik Ray and Ashirbani Saha, created an algorithm that will be used along with a transdermal steering wheel sensor — developed by Sober Steering Sensors Canada Inc. — that detects and measures a driver’s blood-alcohol level from the sweat produced by his or her hands as they grip the wheel.

Grace Macaluso writes for The Windsor Star that Sober Steering’s goal is to eventually make the technology available for manufacturers to build into their vehicles. She notes:

… [T]he company needed to address the problem of what to do if someone who had been drinking attempted to trick the system by getting a sober person to sit in the driver’s seat, put their hands on the wheel and try to start the vehicle.

Ray and Saha’s system would solve that problem by taking pictures of authorized drivers and storing them in a database. A small, vehicle-mounted infrared camera would then snap a photo of whoever is sitting behind the wheel and compare it to those images stored in the database.

Only authorized individuals at legal blood-alcohol levels would be allowed to drive the car; its owner would have control over who is permitted to drive it. And the system would check periodically to verify who is driving the vehicle, and to make sure the driver does not start drinking alcohol after he or she has started the car.

Arellano reports that Ray said, “We are still in the pre-prototype stage, but the program is being tested in two cars. The system will need to be miniaturized.” Arellano details more of what Ray said about the project:

He said they are currently using a three-staged system. The first stage involves a warning signal to the driver that he or she is not allowed to operate the vehicle. If the driver persists to drive the vehicle its lights will blink and its horns will honk continuously. At the third stage, a message and the vehicles GPS (global positioning system) location will be sent out to law enforcement agencies.

Macaluso quotes Ray: “This will actually help save people’s lives. The person who drives drunk, not only is he risking his own life, but the lives of his passengers and other people on the road.”

Image by University of Windsor, used under Fair Use: Reporting.