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Toyota Creating In-Vehicle Alcohol Detection System 507

Posted by Zonk
from the car-is-smarter-than-you dept.
srizah writes "Toyota is developing an Alcohol Detection System that can detect drunken drivers and would immobilize the car when it detects excessive alcohol consumption. From the article: 'Cars fitted with the detection system will not start if sweat sensors in the driving wheel detect high levels of alcohol in the driver's bloodstream, according to a report carried by the mass-circulation daily, Asahi Shimbun. The system could also kick in if the sensors detect abnormal steering, or if a special camera shows that the driver's pupils are not in focus. The car is then slowed to a halt, the report said.'"
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Toyota Creating In-Vehicle Alcohol Detection System

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  • Ob (Score:5, Funny)

    by lastchance_000 (847415) on Friday January 05, 2007 @09:52PM (#17483804)
    "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that"
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kingrames (858416)
      It can only be attributable to human error.
      The correct quote is:
      "I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen."
    • Re:Ob (Score:4, Informative)

      by flimnap (751001) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:04PM (#17483912) Homepage

      "I'm sorry, Dave, but you're drunk and I won't allow you to start operating a heavy metal object which could kill many people if you're not alert." Not quite as catchy, I suppose.

      These are already used in Australia, anyway. If you're convicted of a drink-driving offence, then your car must be fitted with an alcohol interlock [vic.gov.au] for at least six months.

      • Re:Ob (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ArcherB (796902) * on Friday January 05, 2007 @11:00PM (#17484450) Journal
        These are already used in Australia, anyway. If you're convicted of a drink-driving offence, then your car must be fitted with an alcohol interlock for at least six months.

        They are used here in the states as well. Unfortunately, these can be easily defeated by having a child or friend blow into the tube so the car starts.

        Two of these new methods seem pretty easy to get around too. Wear gloves for the steering wheel, and sun glasses for the eye thingie. My biggest fear is a false positive!
        Don't get me wrong, it's great to see what Toyota is doing. However, I'm going to be pretty upset paying and extra grand for the next Toyota for a steering wheel sensor that may return a false positive, stranding my wife and daughter in a not-so-good part of town just after sunset because my wife used a alcohol based hand sanitizer.
    • by creimer (824291)
      "I'm sorry, Dave, I called the cops to arrest you for attempted drunk driving. They will be here shortly. Please urinate and/or hurl outside the vehicle."
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        In Canada, the law says they can arrest you for being in "Care and Control" of a vehicle while drunk. I think they can arrest you for just starting the car, so as to stop you before you cause damage. So technically if your car detected you were drunk, then you could already be in trouble. If they see you pulled over on the side of the road, they may have cause to arrest you. Maybe this isn't such a bad idea. I think that cars are dangerous enough without having drunken people driving them. Personally,
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:32PM (#17484214)
      I predict you will see bums holding signs in nigteclub parking lots.
  • Software Glitch (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Martix (722774) on Friday January 05, 2007 @09:53PM (#17483812)
    Just what we need is more stuff to go wrong and make a mistake and shut the engine off on a busy highway.
  • Dangerous (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ozric99 (162412) on Friday January 05, 2007 @09:54PM (#17483824) Journal
    Refusing to start the car is one thing, and perfectly acceptable, but taking control away from the driver is a big no no under any circumstance.
    • by catbutt (469582)
      Well I'd hope it would be smart enough to warn you and give you a minute to pull out of traffic.
      • by Joebert (946227) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:22PM (#17484110) Homepage
        Car : *doesn't start*
        Drunk : *starts using towel*
        *time elapsed*
        Car : Drunk driver detected, shutting down in 60, 59, 58, 57...
        Drunk : *mashes gas pedel*
      • by steelfood (895457)
        That's not gonna help if you're drunk. You'll be sitting there wondering why you're slowing down (despite any warning signs that the car will have) until it's too late and you get rear-ended. Or, you'll panic and swerve into somebody passing from the right. Or, there won't be a service road for you to pull onto.
        • by catbutt (469582)
          Well if you are that drunk, seems better than the alternative which is that you continue driving.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Zocalo (252965)
          If you get rear-ended because your engine has been cutoff because the car decided that you were DUI and you are drifting to a halt that's not your fault; it's that of the person who rear-ended you. You'll probably still get prosecuted for DUI, but the driver that hit you also could be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention as well. If you are swerving all over the road, don't have any lights on at night, or get into a "he-said, she-said" situation with no witnesses to back you up then you'r
    • Re:Dangerous (Score:5, Insightful)

      by denbesten (63853) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:12PM (#17484006)
      Anti-Lock brakes, Electronic Stability Control and automatic headlights are all existing examples of taking control away from the driver.
      • Do they prevent you from using your car for driving? If a 18-wheeler is about to hit you, I don't think any of those devices would make collision inevitable. But this one would.
      • Re:Dangerous (Score:5, Insightful)

        by flewp (458359) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:24PM (#17484132)
        It could be argued that ABS and stability control help the driver maintain control. Locking up the tires is rarely, if ever a good thing. And unless you're on the track, and need the car to be twitchy, stability control is usually a good thing. Again, it helps the driver stay in control. Your average driver, on average roads, is likely to be out of control in the situations where stability control would take effect. Or, on the verge of going out of control.
        • Call it "hold". While pressed, it:

          a. disables ABS
          b. disables automatic transmision gear changes
          c. disables stability control

          Put that where I can operate it easily in a stressful situation, and I'll be really happy. The ABS can save me if I'm not paying attention, but I can take control when I expect the car to misbehave.

          (most common example: braking on loose sand)
    • Re:Dangerous (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gsn (989808) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:15PM (#17484044)
      Refusing to start the car is one thing, and perfectly acceptable, but taking control away from the driver is a big no no under any circumstance.


      I'd agree that refusal to start the car is probably a good idea - possible false positives by the drunk idiot in shotgun throwing up notwithstanding. There are however several drivers I know (and unfortunately been driven by) who need control taken away from them when sober to begin with. Theres a lot of people out there who ought not be be given driving licenses. Pretty much every time I'm on the interstate I see some car crash - read about it the next day and chances are are its DUI. I'm fine with control being taken away because it seems we are getting much better at cars that can drive themselves.

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/new s/news.html?in_article_id=393401&in_page_id=1770 [dailymail.co.uk]

      Also there are tons of things you could do if you weren't actually driving the car and it would be brilliant for long road trips.
    • Really... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Belial6 (794905) on Saturday January 06, 2007 @12:58AM (#17485272)
      Really, your right. A much better solution would be to start flashing every light in the car. Other drivers, pedestrians, and cops would all immediately be able to identify you as a drunk driver, and take appropriate action. If it turned out to be a false positive, the other drivers and pedestrians would only be inconvenienced slightly, and the cops would pull you over, test your blood alcohol, and either arrest you, or let you go.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Aladrin (926209)
        Inconvenienced slightly, or given a cause for their own accident, you mean. If people were good drivers, this would be a good idea. But they aren't. And sometimes, all it takes it some nutjob with his 4-way flashers on for no reason to make an idiot have an accident. If a car suddenly started flashing EVERY light, they'd either:

        A) Have no bloody idea what's going on, and stare to find out
        or
        B) Know that the person is drunk and immediately start digging for the cell phone, start changing lanes to get the
  • by All_One_Mind (945389) on Friday January 05, 2007 @09:55PM (#17483828) Homepage Journal
    I have a Toyota and I wouldn't dare trust my car to tell me if it's alright drive. What about false positives? What if I'm on the freeway and the car turns itself off? Wouldn't Toyota be liable for any damages? What if this results in people loosing their lives? What if I have a friend in the passenger seat who pukes on the drivers seat. What if, what if? There's too many variables in this. This is a horrible idea, and I will never buy a car that has this "feature"
    • by corsec67 (627446)
      What if... Insurance was much cheaper with this car, and you were almost guaranteed never to be pulled over for a DUI check?
      • We shall see. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by twitter (104583)

        What if... Insurance was much cheaper with this car...

        It won't be cheaper if it causes more accidents than it prevents, it will be more expensive. Accidents cost money. The insurance companies will know if this works or not and charge accordingly.

    • by vidarh (309115)
      Seat belts kill too, sometimes. Ultimately what will matter is whether or not this can be made safe enough to save significantly more lives than it kills.
    • by Not_Wiggins (686627) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:19PM (#17484082) Journal
      False positives? What about false negatives?

      What would the liability be when the drunk kills another because "if I was too drunk to drive, why did my car start?"
    • by bahwi (43111)
      Bah, it says slows down to a halt not some immediate halt or the car turning off. AND! Cars that have trouble do this already, people run out of gas(yes, on the highway in high speed traffic). The cars don't come to an immediate stop and the way this sounds is as if it slows down probably even slower than just turning off would make you slow down. And I would think the hazard lights would come on too. But I seriously doubt this would cause people to lose their lives, it's not like it makes an immediate stop
    • by loraksus (171574)
      MADD will get the government to pass a bill granting the automakers legal immunity. Plenty of people said they would never buy a car with air bags either, now it's impossible to buy a car without one. I would not be surprised if the prohibitionist loons at MADD would try to add political pressure to see that this happens.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 1u3hr (530656)
      What if I'm on the freeway and the car turns itself off?

      Do you really think they'd make it work like that? You'd probably have a series of alarms that gradually got more intrusive, finally a speed governor kicking in that gradually brought you to a stop. But it probably isn't a good idea to be drinking while you're driving on the freeway anyway.

  • Alcohol on hands (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 05, 2007 @09:56PM (#17483836)
    Cars fitted with the detection system will not start if sweat sensors in the driving wheel detect high levels of alcohol in the driver's bloodstream

    Suppose that I work in a bar and there's alcohol on my hands because I just spent the last eight hours wiping down tables. What then?
    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:36PM (#17484246)
      I'm quite shocked that all /.ers have looked at so far is a list of things that could go wrong with the technology.

      What is really broken with this whole concept is that it takes away driver responsibility and nannies the driver. Instead of making drivers responsible, we make them victims: "It isn't my fault I drove drunk! The car let me drive! Go sue Toyota or put a Toyota exec in jail.". All these so-called safety devices just give users a false sense of safety.

      Cars are fucking dangerous things and need to be driven carefully. I think it would be a GoodIdea to strip all the safety gear from the driver (passenger safety is OK). If drivers didn't have airbags and safety belts and crumple zones perhaps they'd spend a bit more time thinking about driving rather than texting etc.

    • by r00t (33219)
      Hand sanitizer would do it.
  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Friday January 05, 2007 @09:56PM (#17483838)
    If The car is slowed to a halt on a high speed road then you can get rear ended.

    Also abnormal steering can come form trying to get a round a road hazard.
  • by Si (9816) on Friday January 05, 2007 @09:57PM (#17483848) Homepage
    Let's work on a teenager-on-cell-phone detection device first, k?

    (and by teenager, I mean "any idiot who thinks that they don't need to pay attention to other road users")

    (and by cell phone, I don't just mean making calls. Thumb-typers, you know who you are)
  • easy cheating (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xlyz (695304) on Friday January 05, 2007 @09:57PM (#17483854) Journal
    just wear a pair of gloves
  • Slowing to a halt is all good and dandy but a bit anti-clamactic. It would be much more interesting if the breaks automatically locked, the airbags went off, all of the lights inside flipping on and off like the starship Enterprise in red alert etc etc. Defintely would scare the heck out of me. Maybe they should make the system automatically put the warning flashers on too for good measure. :)
  • I'm a handwasher. I have cats.

    When I get a cut or a scratch, I clean it with alcohol. (because short of amputating the hand, it's the ONLY way to be sure!) One would assume that at least some of this alcohol would stay on my hands when I drive.

    I don't drive drunk. Ever. Still my car would be cutting out whenever I've treated one of my numerous injuries.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rlp (11898)
      Not to mention if you spill gas (with ethanol) on your hands while fueling your vehicle.
    • by Cyberax (705495)
      Actually, alcohol detectors usually do not detect alcohol itself, but its metabolites (usually acetaldehyde).

      BTW, alcohol is not a good disinfectant because it evaporates quite fast and does not kill all bacteria. Iodine solutions or modern antiseptics are much better.
  • by Lethyos (408045) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:06PM (#17483942) Journal

    Remarkable how we devise elaborate technologies to serve as nannies in lieu responsible adult behavior.

    • Well, since the evidence shows that many adults aren't responsible, you have to do something about it when this irresponsibility affects the life and property of other people. For instance, instead of lamenting that adults can't keep from stealing or murdering, we have laws and safeguards. You have to govern the population you have (irresponsible adults) instead of wishing for a more ideal population (all upstanding, responsible adults). Drunk driving affects the life and property of other people, so we dev
    • by TubeSteak (669689)
      I dislike the implications of such technologies, but the point you're trying to make flies in the face of reality.

      The reality is that people under the influence of alcohol have a hard time engaging in "responsible adult behavior".

      P.S. This isn't a recent phenomena.
    • It's better than Social Darwinism.
    • That's what I was thinking until I read your comment and realized it's wrong. This wouldn't be nanniesm (sp?). We're not protecting your dumb drunk self from yourself, we're protecting everyone else from your dumb drunk self.

      If you want to make damn sure that it isn't nanniesm, we'll put a boxing glove in ontop of the airbag to give you a broken nose if you try to operate while drunk. There. Not being a nanny, being the friend you should have with you.
  • i dunno... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by east coast (590680) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:10PM (#17483988)
    i feel that it's always a bad idea to leave technology determine if a vehicle should function or not. while i don't condone drinking and driving there is also the chance that someone may be in a position that they have no real choice.

    what's going to happen the first time a few people are together drinking in a responsible fashion and one gets sick/injured and someone needs to get him to professional help and the car won't work due to their "risky" behavior? who's going to be liable for what on that day?
    • Re:i dunno... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Manchot (847225) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:28PM (#17484178)
      I'm all for keeping as much liberty as possible, but let's face it: when you get behind the wheel and you've been drinking, it's not a decision that affects only you. In the situation you described, if there's a real emergency, the ambulance can be called. It's one thing to trample on the Bill of Rights invoking terrorism as a reason, but it's quite another to stop "responsible" drinkers from driving (especially when drunk drivers who think that they're "responsible" kill nearly 20,000 people every year).
    • by MagicDude (727944)
      The person liable would be the ambulance driver on duty that night. All good intentions aside, you're much better waiting for trained personel to transport an injured person. Suppose a person has a fractured neck, but you feel you don't need to wait for some damned ambulance to get here, because you can drunkenly drive to a hospital faster. You pick up your friend to carry him to your car and **SNAP**, his fractured neck turns him into a quadrapelegic for the rest of his life. Sure, that's an extreme ex
  • by Sefert (723060) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:13PM (#17484022)
    And it's so damn cold i'm wearing gloves when i'm driving home pissed!
  • ...why doesn't it do the driving?

    No, really, I'm serious.
  • by straponego (521991) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:15PM (#17484050)
    Cars fitted with the detection system will not start if sweat sensors in the driving wheel detect high levels of alcohol in the driver's bloodstream

    Pfft. Gloves.

    or if a special camera shows that the driver's pupils are not in focus.

    Pfft. Blindfold.

    You'll have to try harder than that to infringe on my freedoms, Toyota!


  • Nobody will pay for this technology until the law is passed that every car must have this equipment, and that will not happen in 10 years.

    Aside from that, I don't see this as "too wrong". We already give a lot of control to the computer, like ABS. Also, note the article says "will not start", not "shut down". If the engine is already running, the system will not kick in. So to circumvent it, just drink after you start the engine.
  • Legal issues (Score:2, Interesting)

    by FF3451 (836548)
    Aside from the obvious issue of the system giving false positives and causing an accident, Toyota could be putting themselves in a slippery slope when it comes to possible legal issues. What they are technically doing is involving themselves in the "enforcement" of the drink-driving laws - surely meaning that one day when their system fails to prevent a heavily inebriated person from driving one of their vehicles and subsequently being involved in a collision, then thanks to our out-of-control blame cultur
  • The technology's been available for some time now. It's about time they started putting it into cars. Too many deaths involving cars are from drunk drivers. And it's not like darwin's performing his miracles either. Since a number of these accidents involve pedestrians, the inebriated driver is the one who walks away.

    I do agree that taking control of a car while it is operating is a bad thing. The driver should always have control while the vehicle is in motion. Whether it is a good or bad thing if the driv
  • by Shihar (153932) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:27PM (#17484162)
    Over coming the alcohol sensor is a simple matter of putting on a pair of gloves. Any drunk who is sober enough to get his key in the ignition is also going to be sober enough to know he can defeat his car with a pair of gloves.

    As far as the 'features' of this car, I don't want them. I can prevent myself from drive drunk without my cars help, thank you very much. The last thing in the world do I want three separate systems to disable my car. The alcohol sensor could be triggered by other sources of alcohol. More scary, the erratic driving and the lack of pupil focusing could be triggered by poor pattern recognition. The last thing in the world I want is for the car to decide is that I am not focusing enough due to a glitch and try and slow me down on in the middle of a Boston highway during heavy traffic chugging along at 70 mph.

    If Toyota wants put in a safety feature that I would actually want, give me a system to warn me that I am falling asleep THAT I CAN TURN OFF. I don't mind my car warning me that my driving is looking funny or that it seems like I am not focused, but I want to be able to disable the warning should it become clear that there is a glitch. The last thing in the world I want is for it to take control away from me. I would rather veer off the road and hit a treat then come to a dead stop in the middle of a highway. Trees only hit you ounce.
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      Over coming the alcohol sensor is a simple matter of putting on a pair of gloves. Any drunk who is sober enough to get his key in the ignition is also going to be sober enough to know he can defeat his car with a pair of gloves.

      I think part of the problem is that people don't always quite realize that they're too drunk to drive. Having the car refuse to start and, say, tell you "You're drunk!" could help clue them in.
  • Heck, let's "Take It To The Next Level" (TM) and include a GPS receiver; an auto-dialer; city/highway db. When the "alarm" goes off, have the vehicle auto-dial 911; a synthesized voice announces (among other things) the GPS coordinates, along with cross streets (city) or mile-post number (highway). If the driver attempts to thwart the system, the vehicle will administer electric shocks (with increasing intensity).

    Patent pending.

  • by Axe (11122)
    Why would anybody buy a car that may just die on you if you happened to use an common hand disinfectant (96% ethanol - the one they use in hospitals) - all the while you can easily defeat it with a pair of gloves when you are really drunk. [p] This is beyond insane. It is stupid.
  • I'm a pretty libertarian fellow, but I'm surprisingly actually in favor of this sort of technology (as long as it isn't obligated by the government?). After all, drunk driving is responsible for quite a bit of death and destruction: In the US, in the year 2003 alone, there were 17,000 deaths caused by drunk driving and over a half-million injuries. Reducing drunk driving deaths would certainly help a lot more than the police's funding-based obsession over speeding tickets.

    That said, I'm much more in favor o
  • that's OK (Score:3, Funny)

    by oohshiny (998054) on Friday January 05, 2007 @10:39PM (#17484272)
    Then the drunks will just drive hands-free; they'll think it's much more fun anyway.
  • Will this new steering wheel be able to tell the difference between someone who's drunk and someone who's washed their hands with cleaning alcohol? While it won't effect many people, it's an obvious example of a false positive.

    As for false negatives - wear gloves and sunglasses, and as long as you don't swerve too much (which most drunk drivers don't - they drive perfectly fine until something goes wrong and can't react quick enough) you're absolutely fine.
  • What if, instead of this, the car gives you a nice big warning if it detects that you're too drunk? I think that might be a very good idea.
  • In-vehicle alcohol detection system? Whew! Now I won't lose my beer while I'm driving! Thanks, Toyota!
  • Control-freak magnet (Score:4, Interesting)

    by russotto (537200) on Friday January 05, 2007 @11:10PM (#17484542) Journal
    The problem with this technology isn't any of the (many) practical problems it entails. The problem is it just begs to be made mandatory by governments. Very few people would want to put this system in a car which they drive; after all, most of them figure they don't drive drunk anyway so why pay for it, and the drunks sure as heck don't want it. Some people would want it in cars they bought for their teen-aged children but that's a fairly small niche market. Rental companies might want it but probably wouldn't want to pay for it unless it was somehow mandated -- particularly since it might cause legitimate renters to shy away fearing those false positives. So here's a technology which "everyone" (which is to say journalists, car manufacturers, politicians, and the safety lobby) sees will do good, but will not be accepted by the public on an individual level. Legislation is sure to follow.

    On a philosophical level, I think it's antithetical to freedom for technology to be required to prevent people from deliberately doing wrong. The choice to break the law should be up to the individual. Consider if the Montgomery buses had had skin-albedometers and some odd contraption to move Rosa Parks where she "belonged" -- you can't have civil disobedience if disobedience is impossible. Consider if printing presses were somehow rigged to refuse to print the Pentagon Papers or anything else the government thought was illegal to print. If cars had a 55mph speed governor during the years of the US national maximum speed limit, would that law have ever been repealed? Granted, these are arguments against mandating the technology, not against its development, but for the reasons I stated above, this technology is pretty much a control-freak magnet.
  • So (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Saturday January 06, 2007 @01:06AM (#17485314)

          Are they going to call this "Trusted Commuting"?

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