Center for Automotive Research logoThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working on a seamless technology that would be integrated into vehicles to detect when the person behind the wheel has alcohol on his or her breath, as Larry P. Vellequette writes for Automotive News.

Nat Beuse, NHTSA’s associate administrator for vehicle safety research, said on Monday at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars that alcohol-detection technology is one of several the agency is looking into as a way to lower traffic deaths, Vellequette writes. Beuse said that although traffic fatalities have declined in the last few decades, vehicle accidents still kill more than 33,000 people a year in the U.S., at a cost estimated at $827 billion annually, Velequette writes.

Beuse said NHTSA is working on an alcohol-detection system with suppliers, but did not say who those suppliers were or provide details about the system itself, Vellequette writes. NHTSA has been stepping up its efforts to find ways of preventing drunk driving. In October 2011, the agency awarded a $2.2 million contract to the Japanese firm Takata Corp. to create a device that would measure a driver’s sobriety, Vellequette writes.

Autoliv is also working on such a system, he writes. Such alcohol-detection technology might be on the market by 2018, Velequette writes. Federal officials said the agency has not yet determined whether such technology would prevent a vehicle from starting or merely produce an alert, he adds.

There have been many attempts to devise technology that can prevent drunk driving. Among them, as this blog has written, students developed a facial recognition system to prevent drunk driving. Another such technology is a pocket breathalyzer that plugs into a smartphone and gives very accurate results, as this blog has discussed.

On the topic of connected and self-driving vehicles, Beuse said the agency, which has been working with manufacturers, will soon release a report on what it thinks about performance metrics, writes Michael Martinez for The Detroit News. Once the report has been issued, NHTSA will specify how it plans to regulate driverless cars, Beuse said.

Beuse also said NHTSA is working on ways to address protecting a car owner’s privacy, because hacking “is a real issue,” Martinez writes. “I think it’s folly to think it’s not going to happen,” Beuse said. In fact, a study by Hewlett Packard found that 70% of devices connected to the Internet are vulnerable to hacking, writes Luke Villapaz in an article for the International Business Times. Peter Middleton, research director at Gartner, a Connecticut-based information technology research and advisory company, said the problem of hacking is only going to get worse. “The fact is that … many categories of connected things in 2020 don’t yet exist,” Villapaz quotes Middleton as saying.

CAR, the Center for Automotive Research, is a nonprofit organization based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that researches issues relating to the future of the worldwide automotive industry. It began at the University of Michigan, according to CAR’s website.

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