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Nissan Turns to Technology to Stop Drunk Driving 287

Posted by Zonk
from the couldn't-hurt-i-guess dept.
StonyandCher writes with a ComputerWorld story about new efforts by Nissan to reduce the danger of intoxicated drinkers through technology. A trio of new features installed in a prototype vehicle demonstrated this past week are designed to minimize the damage a drunk behind the wheel can cause. "The first [system] attempts to directly detect alcohol in the driver's sweat and gear shift lever. A second system in the car uses a camera mounted in front of the driver to monitor eye movement. If the driver is drowsy it triggers the seat belt to tighten and this movement will hopefully snap the driver out of their drowsiness or prompt them to take a rest. A third system monitors the path of the vehicle to ensure it's traveling in a straight line and not weaving about the road, as is common with a drunken driver."
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Nissan Turns to Technology to Stop Drunk Driving

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  • Mandatory? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by icydog (923695)
    I really hope this doesn't ever become mandatory in new vehicles in the future. I don't want to pay $2000 extra for my car when I don't drink. But if it's not made mandatory, who would buy it?
    • Re:Mandatory? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ozmanjusri (601766) <[aussie_bob] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:41AM (#20118399) Journal
      But if it's not made mandatory, who would buy it?

      Companies.

      We've been trialling a system which uses special glasses to monitor the eye movements of dump truck drivers in open cut mining. The goal is to identify impairment - not just drugs and alcohol, but fatigue, illness or anything which might affect the operator's ability to control the vehicle.

      In the system we use, the monitoring computer has a three-stage alarm, first notifying the driver and their supervisor of the potential for impairment, second stage suggesting that the operator park up at first opportunity, and in the third stage, loud alarms in both the truck and control room. Third stage also throttles back the truck.

      Fully loaded, these trucks mass in excess of 400 tonnes, so any accident is going to be significant. How valuable it will be to transfer the technology to cars is uncertain, but I'd say there are plenty of circumstances where the consequences outweigh the costs, even for small vehicles.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        From a management standpoint, you guys might want to consider having a first stage that alerts the driver only and not his supervisor. It tends to be incredibly demoralizing to employees to feel like they are under constant surveillance and that their bosses know the most minor of mistakes they make. Demoralized employees, in turn, besides being less productive, tend to be much more accident prone. Give people the chance to fix themselves before alerting their supervisors.

        Of course, I am not in the least
    • by jamesh (87723)
      Well... you could start with repeat drunk driving offenders. "Okay son, we are not prepared to believe you outright this time - the third time - that you are now rehabilitated and will not re-offend. So instead what we'll offer you is that you can have your license back now on the condition that you fork out $xxx to have this system installed in your car, and in any other car which you need to drive regularly, and that you submit your car regularly for checks that the system has not been tampered with, etc"
      • by AuMatar (183847)
        How about just not giving them a license? Or locking them up for a few years.
        • by sumdumass (711423)
          Most DUI people I know of end up driving anyways when their license is suspended. I don't think mandating this would make much of a difference. I know one guy who hasn't had a license for Ten years because he won't pay his OMVI fines.
          • by AuMatar (183847)
            It would if you made the penalty for driving on a DUI suspension a decade in jail, no parole. And no, O don't think thats an overreaction- these people have already proven they don't give a shit about the life of everyone else on the road by driving drunk. Society is safer with them in jail.
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by untaken_name (660789)
              A decade in jail? For that? What, are you insane? We should just kill them outright. Actually, we should just execute anyone found guilty of *any* crime. That way, there'd be far less crime. Or, far fewer people. Any way I look at it, it's a win. Just to be fair, though, NO ONE gives a shit about anyone else on the road. Or haven't you driven, lately?

            • by sumdumass (711423)
              It isn't that they don't give a shit. They think they aren't a problem. I don't know how many DUI convictions result from accidents verses pull overs. It would be interesting to find if the threat is as big as it is made out to be. (granted, I'm not taking the fatal part into consideration in this question.)
    • by Shihar (153932) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @02:11AM (#20118801)
      Personally, I think that the alcohol detection systems are probably junk. Short of it being installed on a company vehicles (FedEx?) or as some punishment for a DUI, I don't really see the point. Even than, I doubt many shipping companies have alcohol problems so bad that it justifies such silly expenditures. It is pretty easy to tell if you are too drunk to drive, you don't need your car to tell you for you. Besides, a simple pair of gloves will happily void this system, while splashing alcohol on the steering wheel is a great way to piss off your friends.

      On the other hand, the sleep detection system would be a godsend. If the price was right, I would happily get one of those things installed. I don't want it turning off my car in the middle of the highway, but tightening my seatbelt, beeping, or in some way warning me that I look like I am nodding off would be wonderful. Obviously, you would want a way to turn off the damn thing so that it doesn't confuse bobbing your head along to music with falling asleep, but so long as you can turn the thing off and it is relatively cheap, I think lots of people would go for it and get it installed voluntarily.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by awtbfb (586638)

        On the other hand, the sleep detection system would be a godsend. If the price was right, I would happily get one of those things installed.

        This exists for truck drivers. I don't know what the price is for regular consumers, but these units [attentiontechnology.com] have been on the market for a few years. The nice thing about this system is that it warns you about being tired before you start weaving all over the road. The lead time gives you a chance to find a place to rest. The system also lets you see your drowsiness build up

  • oh no (Score:5, Funny)

    by b3x (586838) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:15AM (#20118259) Journal
    bad for those of us with a lazy eye, use hand disinfectants, and weave to warm up our tires.
    • Racers don't weave to warm up their tires, they weave to clean them. Sticky racing tires accumulate a lot of junk that can affect starts/restarts, so they weave to keep them clean.

      If you really have to build heat into your tires, use your brakes or spin your tires. Of course, the only time you ever need to do this is when racing...

  • by Gryle (933382) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:15AM (#20118261)
    Will the car detect the alcohol on their hands (but not in their systems) and refuse to let them drive?
    • ... and when you spill some E85 on you at the gas station, will it not let you drive afterwards?
    • by ivan256 (17499)
      Yes. Ironically, it won't stop an actual drunk, who will probably shift with a glove, or a napkin from the glove box. Alcohol helps you do stupid things, but it doesn't actually make you stupid.
    • by NonSequor (230139)
      Alcohol that's on your hands should evaporate quickly and I doubt think a detectable quantity could remain on your hands indefinitely.
    • by jamesh (87723)
      I wouldn't worry too much about that, you could just wear gloves. I'm sure a drunk person would *never* think of doing that.

      More seriously, I think there is still value in a system that requires a deliberate attempt to subvert it. A person getting into a car and driving after possibly having too much to drink could argue that they thought they were under the limit (0.05% here in Australia). A person getting into a car and deliberately circumventing a system that has already told them quite clearly that they
      • A person getting into a car and deliberately circumventing a system that has already told them quite clearly that they are over the limit could not, or certainly could not nearly as easily.

        Suppose the system was out of alignment? It isn't maintained regularly, and is likely to be even less reliable than the breathalyzers are. If I had something like that that acted up (or I was diabetic), damn right I'd circumvent it.

  • Hmmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by Bluesman (104513) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:20AM (#20118287) Homepage
    "The first [system] attempts to directly detect alcohol in the driver's sweat and gear shift lever."

    Sorry Nissan, only my wife touches my gear shift lever.

    Badum, tiss!

    Thanks, I'll be here all week, enjoy the buffet, don't forget to tip your waitress.
    • Sorry Nissan, only my wife touches my gear shift lever.
      You were kidding, but I think you're right.

      Now instead of drunk drivers, we're going to have drunk drivers that get their wives (or their kids!) to do the shifting for them.
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:21AM (#20118297) Homepage

    Probably a bad idea. It will encourage drivers to drive drunk. Experience with ABS systems on cars indicates that it encourages drivers to brake more aggressively. This seems more of the same.

    Drowsy driver detection systems have been around for a while, mostly on large trucks.

    We're in an annoying period where vehicle control systems can help a bit, but aren't yet good enough to reliably drive cars automatically. That's getting close, though. A few more rounds of the DARPA Grand Challenge, in tougher situations, and we'll be there.

    • by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:48AM (#20118431)
      Probably a bad idea. It will encourage drivers to drive drunk.

      ABS compensates when the driver brakes too hard, but does not discourage the driver from taking such action in the future. A drunk-driving detector won't compensate for your poor driving while drunk, but it will instead warn you of your impairment to discourage you from continuing to drive. Those are two very different concepts.

      • by nick_davison (217681) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @03:13AM (#20119025)

        ABS compensates when the driver brakes too hard, but does not discourage the driver from taking such action in the future. A drunk-driving detector won't compensate for your poor driving while drunk, but it will instead warn you of your impairment to discourage you from continuing to drive. Those are two very different concepts.
        Previously:

        One beer... I'm pretty sure I'm sober enough to drive.

        Two plus... I'm not sure, better not chance it.

        Now

        One beer... It lets me start, I'm sober.

        Five beers... It won't let me start. Yay, I can rely on this.

        Three beers... Eh, I'll give it a shot. Hey, what do you know? I guess I'm more sober than I thought. Let's drive!

        Whilst it's true that it's not exactly the same concept as ABS which compensates without discouraging, it does have a huge drawback in terms of giving people the sense that they can pass responsibility off on to a machine to determine if they're too drunk rather than erring on the side of caution.

        Of course, the flip side is that many people don't err on the side of caution. It was an eye opener for me, moving from a country where drink driving was a major no-no to one where just about every person I meet seems to have a story about how they got pulled over after having "only had a few" and how unfair they felt it was. For people who err on the side of excess, this system will rein them in - great. For people who err on the side of caution however - and I desperately want to believe there are more people like this - it plays in to all kinds of behavioral psychology weaknesses to encourage them to stop playing it so safe. If that is indeed the larger group, it probably does make things worse overall.
      • It is similar, though, because trust in the system leads people with a 0.07999 BAC to think they're perfectly fine to drive. At .07999 BAC you're legal to drive, but still impaired.
    • by polymath69 (94161)

      Experience with ABS systems on cars indicates that it encourages drivers to brake more aggressively.

      Yeah, that's the training; if you need to stop urgently, depress the brake and let the computer worry about static vs. dynamic friction. That's what it's for.

      Some will abuse that technology by cutting people off and braking. That's not a problem with the technology. The problem is that some people are jerks.

      Jerks will similarly try to abuse this technology with such measures as rubber gloves, sung

    • by AuMatar (183847)
      You must live in California. Anyone who lives in a state where it snows and ices knows ABS is a fucking godsend.
    • We're in an annoying period where vehicle control systems can help a bit, but aren't yet good enough to reliably drive cars automatically.

      Self-driving cars will never happen, at least not in the foreseeable future. The problem isn't that the technology and software won't be able to do it - it's that product liability will make it infeasible. No human or computer can always prevent a crash caused by another car running a red light. Yet almost certainly the computer's manufacturer would be sued in that sit

  • by C0y0t3 (807909)
    ...about 90% alcohol?

    The other two options sound more effective to me.
    • by shawb (16347)
      It's about 90% isopropyl alcohol, not ethanol. I assume it's not that trivial for a device to detect only ethanol.
  • Yes and no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sqrt(2) (786011) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:22AM (#20118307) Journal
    Anything that takes away functionality like the alcohol detecting system or software locks that limit horsepower or top speed based on car model are bad in my opinion. It seems like a perfect example of (mis)applying technology to solve a social problem. The second system mentioned seems like a good idea because you're providing the driver with useful information, I would prefer maybe an audio alert to the potential strangulation by my seatbelt, but that's just me. And car makers better have the sense to make this easy to disable should it become common place.

    Maybe I should just get into restoring cars that were made before the integration of microprocessors :)
  • Shit... (Score:3, Funny)

    by EK103 (759713) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:24AM (#20118323)
    I used rubbing alcohol to clean my gear shift
  • by Dr_Marvin_Monroe (550052) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:27AM (#20118339)
    I don't want to encourage drunk driving, but I don't see it as the car manufacturer's responsibility to put this equipment in the car. I certainly don't want that equipment on my car (either at extra cost to me or not), and would view any car with it as being "less" of a product that I might want to buy. Put short, I wouldn't purchase such a vehicle. Period.

    In addition, as the auto manufacturers start trying to determine if the driver is drunk or not, this might put them at a legal risk for any false positives or negatives. IANAL, but I'm assuming that the manufacturers of those breath analysis devices that the court forces convicted drunks to put on their cars are somehow indemnified or otherwise held blameless should the user find some way to defeat them. Because this is something ordered by the court, they may be exempt from legal liability. I'm not convinced that any car manufacturer would be so lucky if they start putting them on "production" vehicles. There are plenty of hungry lawyers ready to start some type of class-action suit on behalf of injured third parties. To this end, I say keep up the good work lawyers, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    Just another case of "more nanny state, less personal responsibility."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kamapuaa (555446)
      If the people being injured or killed are people other than the driver, it's no longer a question of being a nanny state, or personal responsibility. It becomes a matter of public interest to stop something very dangerous - isn't that what government's for?

      You could make pretty much the exact same lunatic nanny state arguments about speed limits, or speed bumps. And there's other laws, widely accepted, which are a much stronger infringements of personal liberty - seatbelt laws, for instance. Or motorcy

      • by node 3 (115640)

        If this technology can be implemented successfully, the inventors should win the Nobel prize, the Pulitzer price, and possibly a special Academy Award.
        Whereas those against this type of technology are prime candidates for the Darwin Award.
      • by pipingguy (566974) *
        it's no longer a question of being a nanny state, or personal responsibility. It becomes a matter of public interest to stop something very dangerous - isn't that what government's for?

        Drivers that are dangerous (but sober) are pretty easy to spot by other drivers - the cops don't go after them because stupidity is difficult to prove.
    • I doubt many people would want this system in their car, I doubt many people go to the car showroom and think, hmmm, you know what I need is a car that stops my constant drunk driving.

      I be there are plenty of parents who would like to have a system like this in a car they buy for their kid tho.

  • Drowsy Driving (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DTemp (1086779) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:35AM (#20118367)
    This is probably more useful for tired drivers than drunk drivers, as more people drive tired than drunk.

    The other day, I was traveling down I-90 in Mass and I was pretty tired. At point point I think I closed my eyes for around 5-10 seconds, and snapped out of it and was half-way into the next lane. I stopped, got out and stretched, and finished my drive with the windows down (which did a good job of keeping me awake). Ok, sure, I *shouldn't have been driving in the first place*, but if the automatic system would have snapped me out of it when it saw me going into the next lane, or saw my eyes closed, that would have been a big help.
    • by Renraku (518261)
      $2000 of help? When you could have just planned ahead? Will you EVER spend $2000 in coffee to keep you awake on long road trips?
    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      Citroen has this system [citroen.com] already in production [citroen.com] cars. Note, that it is not even the top-of-the-line car, just the mid-sized model. I think this system will be the first of the technologies mentioned here to become standardized. There also exists a system that measures the blinking of your eyes, probably by Mercedes, not sure.

      It was probably top gear who once tested the difference in drunk and tired driving on an oval test track. In that case, driving drunk still managed to keep lanes, but driving tired rea

      • by pimpimpim (811140)
        Addendum: a nice youtube video on the drive lane system by volvo=

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCsIdYUIHp0 [youtube.com]

        Notice that they mention that it doesn't work in fog or on snowy roads! As others mentioned here, that makes it actually a higher danger for those who will solely rely on the system (as anyone will do after using it for a while).

    • You are right in that you shouldn't have been driving in the first place, and you should have been arrested for driving while impaired. I'm just glad you didn't kill anyone.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rich0 (548339)
        Relax - while I'm sure you've never done it I'm guessing that 80% of the driving public has driven impaired in some way. Sure, it is VERY dangerous. The problem is that there isn't a practical solution at this point. Sure, you can just say "well, get more sleep" - but lots of things contribute to tiredness beyond lack of sleep. And as a society we've created a culture that frowns upon getting 8+ hours of sleep every night.

        If one is looking for a technical solution a better one might be self-piloted cars
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pclminion (145572)

      Why is this kind of lapse so much more socially acceptable than driving while intoxicated? Come on people, spell it out for me.

      Most people I know would admit to driving while tired/falling asleep. And yet nobody would admit to driving drunk, even if they've done it.

  • As a practical joke, take a picture from the eye sensing camera's POV with someone in the drivers seat and eyes closed, then tape it over the camera eyehole. Constantly cinching seatbelt!
  • by weak* (1137369) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:48AM (#20118433)
    What do you mean occifer? My car says I'm sotally tober.
  • by bluemonq (812827) * on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:50AM (#20118447)
    So I guess if you're going to drive drunk in a Nissan equipped with one of these systems, don't travel anywhere with curves?
  • by LinDVD (986467)
    ...until I found out how much of a bad corporate citizen they actually are. I will never buy a Nissan or Infiniti vehicle because of this incident http://www.nissan.com/Digest/The_Story.php [nissan.com], nor will I recommend Nissan/Infiniti to any of my close circle of friends.
    • while that guy may be right, he uses cheap propaganda like "nissan motor's french connection" and u.s. flags everywhere he can put them.
  • I can drop a single drop of alcohol on your gear lever, and your car won't run for hours never mind what you do.

    Enjoy.
  • My car deciding to tighten up the seat belt on me like that. I just see bad things happening.
  • You know, these kind of things seem inevitable in our future. Dogooders will always attempt to do good, which often requires stopping stupid people. Unfortunately, dogooders are often non confrontational, and will always prefer a technological, blanket solution - because lets face it, what can be an easier way to stop drunk driving that having the car tell if you're drunk and just not letting you drive. But I just can't see these things ultimately turning out to be good: sooner or later their will be no mor
  • for drivers yakking away on their cell phone instead of watching the road.
    • for drivers yakking away on their cell phone instead of watching the road.

      That's easy to do. Mobile phones can be detected with devices which are trivial to build. The phone system can tell you when every phone was on a call.

      It should be a standard part of accident investigation. Get a chart of time on calls and correlate it with the time of the crash.

  • ... how fun it was for the engineers to do testing on this contraption.
  • I the problems i see is not with the technology but with the moron lawyers, who will no doubt be rubbing their hands together at this news.

    this system will no doubt require all 3 matches to slow the car and warn you that you might be in danger. weaving, plus eye movement and alcohol in your sweat no doubt indicates your. it won't just stop the car if you use hand wipes, all you geniuses spouting that are full of it.

    the problem will start when some fucking moron manages to fool the system and has a crash a

  • How many false positives do you think will be triggered from people who have just fueled the car? The more we move toward ethanol as the primary constituent of fuel, the more people are going to come into contact with it with their hands. Do you stop and wash your hands after fueling? I sure don't; gas station bathrooms are often nasty enough to make it a questionable move.

    Mal-2
  • Disclaimer: I am a police officer in the US state of Florida. I make a lot of DUI arrests and specialize in traffic-related crimes.

    If this works as advertised, it would be a wonderful way to deter the dangerous and all-to-common crime of DUI.

    Of all these ideas, the eye movement cameras are the strongest indicators of impairment, but sound difficult to implement correctly. Sluggish, jerky eye movement and poor tracking is the single strongest indicator of impairment I look for when evaluating whether a drive
    • A simple test of reaction time might stop some people from driving when they are way over the limit. To start the car make the driver watch for an LED to pulse on then press a button in the next (say) 400 milliseconds.

      I agree totally with your argument. A drunk driver crashed on to the footpath close to my home just a couple of months ago. Luckily no pedestrians were hurt.

      But once this type of system is implemented it will only be a matter or time before we hear the story of the drunk girl stranded half way
      • Right idea, but wrong measure. 400ms is way too slow to drive safely. Just yesterday I was pulling onto a road to go left, when a motorbike [who had the right of way] came along. I couldn't see him because of a hedge so I was slowly easing onto the road. The instant I saw the bike I slammed on the brakes to give him right of way. I'm sure my reaction time was well under 400ms, granted it took probably 500-600ms to actually stop though (was only going like 15km/h or so).

        If you can't hit a button within
  • the automative clippey
  • What about false positives?

    Tighten the seat belt? Wouldn't an airhorn be more effective?

    Does anyone trust a self-tightening seat belt?

    Whatever happened to people taking responsibility for drinking?
  • I dont believe in giving up libertes for some imaginary increase in safety.

    I also dont appreciate my car spying on me. And for the record, i dont drink at all.. let alone while driving and i still think this is a bad idea.
  • the idiot that tried to turn me into street pizza [slashdot.org] back in 2000 was driving very erratically, as I saw him a while before he hit me. But he was also putting that Chevy Tahoe's engine to the max, and going FAST. But speed control eliminates the whole point of having a car... the gear shift alcohol-sensing lever may fare better. Of course this is not much good if it's only in Nissans and not the billion-odd cars already in the world. (I'm really not that bitter/angry about it now, despite the tone of this pos
    • by karnal (22275)
      Somewhat offtopic, but what happened to your story? The link on the previous /. article goes kinda nowhere.

      I remember reading it when it came out - was just curious to re-read it...
  • to a social problem. I see no way of this failing. :-/
  • by wikinerd (809585) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @09:03AM (#20120497) Journal
    Would this system work with people who regularly use lots of alcohol-containing oral rinses?

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