Professor Launches Free App to Nab Drunk Drivers
University of California computer science professor Frank Vahid plans to devote much of his career to eradicating drunk driving, and has just launched a free Android and iPhone app for that purpose, as Sean Nealon reports for UCR Today.
The app, called DuiCam, lets drivers use their cell phones to easily record erratic drivers, Nealon writes, and as of Tuesday, had already been downloaded more than 1,000 times. All a driver needs to use the app, besides a cell phone, is a dashboard or windshield mount. The app makes it possible for the phone to constantly record what is happening in front of the car, and then deletes it after 30 minutes to make storage room for more.
If app users see what looks like a drunk driver, they can — after safely pulling over — easily replay the video and zoom in to look at the license plate and other identifying marks on the offending car, to pass on to the police. The app even makes it possible to email a snapshot or the entire video to help investigators get the driver off the road.
Vahid began thinking about the app about five years ago, Nealon writes. He quotes the professor:
I asked myself, ‘What are the biggest problems facing this country?’ To me, drunk driving is one of the biggest and most outrageous; over 10,000 deaths a year in the U.S. caused by drunk driving and several hundred thousands of injuries. If you think about it, that’s three Sept. 11s every year, and it’s a pretty absurd situation because it’s preventable.
Professor Vahid spent more than a year researching drunk driving, speaking with district attorneys, psychologists, and police officers to learn of products that could legally and safely combat the problem, Nealon writes. Although five years ago the technology was not widely available, nowadays nearly ever cell phone has a good camera, and many people already have dashboard or windshield mounts.
Vahid and UCR computer science majors Timothy Cherney and Daniel de Haas — the students who programmed the new apps — are developing more features for DuiCam, like automatic license plate recognition, Nealon writes. Information on those and on how to support future development is available at DuiCam.org. Here are links to download the DuiCam app for iPhone and Android.
In an article for ITWorld, Christopher Nerney writes that he sees two potential issues with the app: “1) Some users might fail to operate it safely (holding their phones instead of using a dashboard mount), and 2) There will be overzealous users who will video everything that moves and send it to police.”
But, Nerney writes, Vahid intends to continue developing DuiCam and is soliciting suggestions for improvements via email (email@example.com). Although drunk driving fatalities in the U.S. fell in 2011 to 9,878 — as compared with 10,136 in 2010 — preliminary numbers indicate an increase for highway deaths in 2012, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Nerney reports.
Nerney notes that a number of apps are available to give a driver info on his or her blood-alcohol level, such as Show Me My Buzz, AlcoDroid, and Can I Drive Yet. Another app, Nemey writes, called BreathalEyes, analyzes a user’s “Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus” (HGN), a condition in which a person’s eyes twitch involuntarily as they look to the left or right, which can be caused by excess consumption of alcohol. HGN is a standard part of field sobriety tests, he notes.
You can see a video about DuiCam here: