NHTSA prototype car aims to block drunk driving [Video]

The agency is working with automakers to develop a Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, which

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has teamed with automakers and safety organizations to develop technology that aims to block drunk driving.

Known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), the technology can be built into vehicles and detects when a driver is intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 and prevent the car from moving.

One potential implementation "unobtrusively" measures the alcohol in a driver's breath, with the ability to distinguish between the exhalations of the driver and the passengers. Another measures blood alcohol levels under the skin's surface by shining infrared light through the fingertip.

"It will be integrated into current vehicle controls, such as the start button or steering wheel, and take multiple, accurate readings in less than a second," the DADSS organization notes.

The organization recently met with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and members of Congress to show off the new technology, arguing that drunk driving causes 10,000 deaths in the US each year and costs approximately $199 billion.

Similar technologies already exist, but are typically only installed in vehicles of drivers who have already been convicted of drunk-driving offenses. Intoxalock, a company that builds ignition interlock devices, is secretive regarding the true costs of its equipment, instead publishing a monthly lease estimate of $65 just for the hardware. Other estimates suggest offenders end up paying thousands to install, lease and insure the equipment and pay for service fees over the course of a year.

"DADSS has enormous potential to prevent drunk driving in specific populations such as teen drivers and commercial fleets, and making it an option available to vehicle owners would provide a powerful new tool in the battle against drunk driving deaths," said NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind.

The automaker partners have not disclosed the costs of the technology, while the NHTSA has not announced if it plans to eventually make technology a safety requirement.

Read more!