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Remote Breathalyzer 519

Foredecker writes: "I couldn't believe my eyes when I read an EE Times article about about remote breathalyzer technology developed by TCU. This device is apparently intended for installation in new cars. In essence, it is a sensor in your car which would signal any nearby police if you had been drinking."
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Remote Breathalyzer

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  • Excuse me but... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by analog-1 ( 133358 )
    Wouldn't it make just a little more *sense* for the sensor to disable the ignition or something?

    Or do we just want our prisons to be that much overpopulated?
    • by Kenneth ( 43287 )
      Wouldn't it make just a little more *sense* for the sensor to disable the ignition or something?

      Not really. I don't particular like this either, but disabling the ignition would make such things as designated drivers impossible as it would disable the ignition if SOMEONE ELSE in the car had been drinking as well.
      • by plague3106 ( 71849 )
        Ok, so i'm DD, and i STILL get pulled over b/c someone else in the car was drinking? Somehow i don't see how that would fly.
        • you'll get pulled over, but would be excused because you (the driver) are found to be sober and the passenger would be drunk off his ---. Or you may not be pulled over at all, as the cop would notice your driving does not show the normal signs of the driver being drunk, like going very slow, swerving, etc. The cop in that situation would keep himself available for watching for people who are swerving and other real dangers instead of being on the side of the road with an ok driver.
    • I work (possible flame bait) at Circuit City in the car audio department (I'm an installer). I know first hand they already have devices you "blow into" to see if you are drunk or not. If you are fine, it let's you drive. If it senses you are drunk, the car won't start. (Pretty much it's just a Starter Kill which is nothing more than a relay tagged into your car's starter line). The only way to get these devices is if the court orders someone to have it installed in their vehical because of an alcohol related incident. Obviously someone who hasn't been drinking can just blow into the device incase someone does cut their foot with an axe (as suggested above).. or if you just want to cheat the system, and the car would start. This new device mentions about detecting air in the vehical, not just what's comming out of the driver. I live in a college town (Home campus of Penn State), and I know alot of people around here who designate drivers. This new device means more people getting pulled over for no reason, just because someone in the vehical was drinking. For some reason this just doesn't go over for me. But no problem.. how long do you think it would take someone to come out with a signal jammer if they did put this device into vehicals (or to put tape over the sensor)
  • Why not... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by maddogsparky ( 202296 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @08:09AM (#2262581)
    just disable the car if the driver's breath doesn't pass? That would be cheaper for them and the rest of us since we wouldn't have to pay the cost of the police processing and legal procedings, and they wouldn't drive in the first place and get a fine or jailtime.

    • IIRC, there was a program like that out there for repeat offenders. Get caught DUI or DWI more than once, get a device placed in your car to prevent driver from starting car while drunk, along with other license restrictions. Refusing the device gets greeted with a suspended license or other penalties.

      The nice part here is that the person was dumb enough to do it once, got caught, went through the penalty, etc. Then was truely dumb enough to do it again. At this point it is completely legal to restrict the person's driving privliges, and providing the alternative to the suspended license gives the person a change to resurect themselves, and keeps them otherwise functional members of society.

      Dont remember how the program works or if the passenger's drunkness had an impact. I remember seeing it a really long time ago on some news show (maybe 12-15 years ago?). I dont know if such a program is still in use somewhere....
  • by Tomun ( 144651 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @08:09AM (#2262582)
    More like it signals police if ANYONE in your car has been drinking.
    What a really good idea.
    • ...ANYONE who is breathing, consistantly, all over the steering wheel perhaps.

      Modern vehicles have fairly complex air circulation systems within their cabs, hence the ease with which driver and passenger can have different climate controls, and stuff.

      I'm not saying it's a good or bad thing, the suggestions that the device disable the engine seem more reasonable to some extent, although I can see problems with that approach in emergencies, etc. But I doubt your suggestion of how it might fail is valid, and therefore a real reason to oppose it.
      • My job is designing automotive climate controls. Some vehicles have a thermister in the dash (combined with a fan that sucks in air) to detect the temperature of the cabin. It works ok for a single zone, (everyone has to agree on one setting), but when there are multiple zones (driver, passenger, rear, etc) where each zone has its own control, it doesn't work very well. There is too much cross talk between the different zones of the car to consistently figure out the temperature in a given area.

        • My job is designing automotive climate controls
          but when there are multiple zones (driver, passenger, rear, etc) where each zone has its own control, it doesn't work very well.
          Well, simply skirt around the problem by putting two thermostats: one labelled " his " and one labelled " hers ", each with two settings: " too hot " and " too cold ".
      • by sparcy ( 98419 )
        Sure there are multi-zone climate controls which distinguish between driver and passengers, but how many cars have these systems? I would imagine they make a small percent of all the cars on the road.

        Just for kicks, say all cars had the multi-zone climate system, how well would this system work if the windows are down? If you have the windows opens I would imagine the wind would whip around the air to a point where it might not get a good reading. I think this would also lead to false positives since with a lot of air flow a drunk passenger might set off the sensor.

        I can see these big brother systems leading to people being slower to buy the new items with these "features."
    • Still more efficient than stoping people at (mor or less) random, as is the case now.
    • by hawk ( 1151 ) <> on Friday September 07, 2001 @10:37AM (#2263291) Journal
      I am a lawyer, but this is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

      I'm stunned. Not that the device existed, but by what they want to do with it. I assumed that the posts here would be the usual ignorant overreaction to taking a line out of context, but it's not.

      This is the most serious threat to American liberty since the proposed flag burning amendment [I support burning flag burners, but an amendment to ban that hateful activity will do more damage to the flag than all the cretins that ever burned it. That flag represents the very liberty that allows them to burn it, and burning it acknowleges that . . . but I digress.]

      I loathe drunk drivers. After a first offense, when the license is eventually restored, the drunk should be required to have a reflective Scarlet D on all sides of the vehicle and a distinctive tint to his headlights to warn us he's coming. On a second conviction, license revocation should be permanent with no future license for anything heavier than a moped. [I *grudgingly* acknowledge that a first offense might conceivably happen to someone from not understanding the levels involved. Grudgingly. Once a person has been through that, though . . .]

      Is it clear enough yet that I want everly last drunk caught and executed?

      That said, this devise is an intrusion at the level that should have common citizens ready to take up arms against the government. This *is* an intrusive search. This is *more* than a little step down the slippery slope to the surveillance of 1984.

      There is a clear role for such technology. When I first started practicing in '89, one of the lawyers from my suite came back confused as to what the judge hade ordered on a drunk. He had gone in expecting a prison term, but the judge ordered "interlock," which he'd never heard before. It was a breathalyzer attached to the ignition system, a damned good idea (add it to my D above :). But this is for a convicted drunk driver.

      Something sampling the air neer the steering wheel would be harder to defeat (though how many people will breath in the tube for their driver???). As a consequence of conviction, such a device is reasonable. But this device is fundamentally flawed in concept.

      Send a little signal to the police? How about *calling* them??? For that matter, the car shouldn't even *start*, or should shut off (after a warning period to pull over). This device is *insane*.

      hawk, esq.

  • ... the web page that says "cut the red chord and the sensor is out of bussiness"
  • Hmmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by The Fast Choker ( 210010 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @08:10AM (#2262585)
    Could they put a detector in the car that tells the cops to bring a change of underwear for little kids on those too-long trips where they just can't hold it anymore?
  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @08:11AM (#2262586) Homepage Journal
    Gee, it seems very easy to defeat... let alone what if you have 3 very drunk friends in a closed window car?

    As for those who would claim invasion or violation of Constitutional rights, uh, driving is a privledge, not a right. They can set arbitrary requirements up until the public throws them out.

    Now, forcing this on people with at least one dui conviction would not be out of the question would it? Still the ease in fooling it kind of defeats the purpose.
    • The issue isn't whether driving is a privelege, rather whether the proactive search is legal. The 4th Amendment states "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

      This ain't "probable cause," it's an invasion of one's person, and precisely the sort of thing the 4th Amendment is supposed to prohibit.

      See me weaving, driving too slowly, chugging a beer behind the wheel, mowing over little old ladies with walkers, or rolling down the window so the drunk sixteen-year-old girl in the passenger seat can toss her cookies: That's probable cause. Driving through town with invisible vapors in my car is not.
  • by Emil Muzz ( 211998 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @08:13AM (#2262594)
    So every time you hit the switch for the windshield washer and spray what, in many cases, is a fairly strong solution of ethanol onto your windshield - right by the ventilation system intakes in most cars by the way - this thingy signals to all police in range that you're having a 4-alarm kegger in your backseat?

    That's not the only "innocent" source of ethanol vapours, either - there are plenty of things used in a car that could create them, and not to mention the fact that this better be one hell of a specific fuel cell to only detect ETHANOL vapours. From my chemistry days I seem to remember that fuel cells are quite versatile in their ability to catalyze not just the target reaction, but other similar reactions. Such as perhaps butyl alcohol or methyl alcohol, neither of which will get you drunk, but both of which are present in a lot of cleaning products...

    Just what we need, really! Another "excuse" for cops (cough, cough, particularly southern cops) to pull us over because they don't like the little darwin-fishy on our car's backside...

    • Right now, they can stop you if they suspect you for drunk driving, with no real evidence at all.

      If this system became common, they would need to stop less innocent people in order to catch the same number of drunk drivers.
    • The point is that these people make something that could potentially be used for good, but decide that it should be used to screw with people.

      How about not allowing the car to start? keeping the drunk off the road... nooo let's allow them to drive but get the police involved... Must have been invented by a lawyer to help boost business.
    • Oops forgot to add... someone suffering from severe halitosis caused by gingivitis can set off a breathalyzer.... (seen it done! the guy was stone sober and still registered 0.12) something about the substances given off by the body that works like you mentioned.
  • So the police pull you over because your friend is pumping out enough ethanol vapors to send the sensor into the stratosphere. Thats great. Is the plan just to never transport anyone who has been drinking?

    I am however relieved I'll be able to drive around hyped up on crack in the future without having my car narc on me.
  • here's a better idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ender Ryan ( 79406 ) <[ ] ['' in gap]> on Friday September 07, 2001 @08:17AM (#2262606) Journal
    Just sell friggin breathalyzers to the general public so they can see for themselves if they're over the legal limit. Why do we need all the Big BrotherTM crap? How the hell is that supposed to help anything?

    If you let people take responsibility for themselves you'd be surprised what you find. Most people I know who have ever been cited for DUI didn't realize they were over the legal limit.

    Is there some type of breathalyzer available to the general public?

    • Because the liberals/socialists want to be the "big brother" of society... they don't believe in people taking responsibility for themselves. In fact, they probably believe people are too stupid to take responsibility for themselves.

      There was a story here in NJ where a drunk fell over himself at a bar and sued the bar. Of course, the bar had insurance, and despite the fact it was the drunk's own fault, the bar was "guilty of serving alcohol to a guy who was already drunk." (or so the prosecution claimed). The case was settled out of court by the bar's insurance company, but it just goes to show that people just don't think other people are responsible enough for themselves.

      But just notifying police as a drunk guy drives by seems kind of "too late" to me. If the user has to drive a mile before getting to a point where a cop is, then that's 1 mile the drunk driver could kill someone. A few years ago they were talking about putting these systems in cars of people convicted of prior DUI's. The premise was before they could turn the key, they'd have to blow into the breathalyzer and if you werent at or above the limit, it would allow you to start the car. This is probably a better solution.

      This problem would also be solved if we had a better public transportation system in the U.S. If people relied more on public transportation than their own automobile to get around, we wouldn't have so many of these problems... but this is another subject altogether...
      • Yeah, nothing quite so improves the public transportation experience as a train, bus, or trolley car full of drunks. :-)
      • I always thought that Sweden was one of the most socialist countries we have these days, yet they seem to sell [] breathalysers in their high-street shops, which kind of debunks the "socialists won't let them" theory.

      • "Because the liberals/socialists want to be the "big brother" of society... they don't believe in people taking responsibility for themselves. In fact, they probably believe people are too stupid to take responsibility for themselves.

        There was a story here in NJ where a drunk fell over himself at a bar and sued the bar. Of course, the bar had insurance, and despite the fact it was the drunk's own fault, the bar was "guilty of serving alcohol to a guy who was already drunk." (or so the prosecution claimed). The case was settled out of court by the bar's insurance company, but it just goes to show that people just don't think other people are responsible enough for themselves.

        FYI, there is no "prosecution" in a civil case. There are only plaintiffs and defendants.

        Your claim seems to be that only the drunk should take responsibility for his actions. Isn't the bar responsible for its action in serving the drunk? Or does the bar get a free pass because it is a servant of the market and can therefore do no wrong?

        I am always skeptical of anecdotes about some horrible thing that happened in some lawsuit. All too often the reality of the situation and the decision is different. For instance, the McDonald's coffee case. This is still routinely pointed out as an example of an out-of-control civil justice system. But the people who claim this never seem to point out that the woman who was burned tried to settle solely for her medical expenses (a few thousand), that McDonald's had already had hundreds of such claims and chose to ignore them, that McDonald's was shown to deliberately serve their coffee at a much higher temperature than either home coffee machines or other fast food chains (because it takes longer to drink hot coffee so there are fewer refills and you can use cheaper coffee and still get a decent aroma if you make it very hot). Moreover, the award was later reduced.

        "This problem would also be solved if we had a better public transportation system in the U.S. If people relied more on public transportation than their own automobile to get around, we wouldn't have so many of these problems.

        Since you are down on "liberal/socialists", who is going to pay for the mass transit systems you want? Clearly the market will not provide.

        • If you want more details...

          The drunk arrived drunk (as the patrons of the bar have said). He pulled the same stunt in 3 other bars before hand, except they didn't have liquor insurance. The three bars all testified he complained he's sue but backed away when he found out there was no money to win. However, the same stunt was pulled in 4 places. It just so happens that the place that got sued was the place with the insurance. Oh, and also, the guy was a regular at the bar and the bartender knew him (something like around 2 years) and said he had only 2 drinks when he usually had 6-8 drinks before getting drunk.

          Oh well, there's more information for ya ;)
      • Because the liberals/socialists want to be the "big brother" of society... they don't believe in people taking responsibility for themselves

        Excuse me, but when was "liberal" redefined? You're not the only the only one who's baffled me with this, but you're the latest, so I'm picking on you today.

        I've always thought of myself as very liberal. I've taken a couple of those online tests that are supposed to show your political leaning and what party matches your beliefs the closest -- all have told me I'm liberal. But the idea that I want to be "big brother" and that I don't think people can take care of themselves is utter bullshit.

        Big Brother is the last thing I want to be or to see, sadly it seems we're getting closer every day. And furthermore, I'm a great believer in personal responsibility. I can't believe some of the lawsuits I'm seeing these days, where someone screws up and blames everyone else.

        So what am I now? The opposite of liberal would be conservative, right? And I'm sure as hell not conservative. So what's "liberal" mean now, and what's my new label?

        I'm starting to think this redefining of "liberal" is some far-right strategy to make people think, "Well if that's what the liberals think, I'm gonna start voting for the conservatives!"

      • Because the liberals/socialists want to be the "big brother" of society... they don't believe in people taking responsibility for themselves. In fact, they probably believe people are too stupid to take responsibility for themselves.

        People DON'T take responsibility for themselves. People ARE too stupid to take responsibility for themselves. That's why there are so many drunk drivers and drunk driving accidents and fatalities.

        Isn't this obvious? If people were responsible, they would not be driving drunk in the first place.
      • I won't get into the liberal/socialist issue: my concern here is with the serving of alcohol to someone who's far too gone. Establishments that serve alcohol have a right and a responsibility to turn someone down if they're too far gone.

        I've been asked if I was to be driving once or twice. [Every time, I had a DD. I'm crazy, not stupid.] After responding with a no, the server would then serve another one. But I have gotten a dirty look from a bartender once when ordering. I think they don't realize that I'm a bigger guy than I look and that I also hold my liquor well--but you know, I'm glad they ask. If someone did turn me down a drink, I wouldn't get hacked at all--I think I'd realize they were doing me a favor.

      • by HamNRye ( 20218 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @01:34PM (#2263987) Homepage
        That they expect you to pay to have the device installed in your car. Next they'll expect me to pony up for smoke detectors that detect pot smoke and radio the police.

        Have we forgotten the very important "He who would trade liberty for safety deserves neither"?? As I recall, Oral sex is still illegal as a form of sodomy. When will the government require that you "Blow for sperm"??

        Time to look in to Canadian Immigration....

    • giving breathalyzers to the general public is typically a very, very bad idea. Instead of using them to make sure they're safe to drive, people tend to use them to see just how drunk they can get...I've seen many a college student push a few too many tequilla shots down in an attempt to get "officially drunker" than his buddies...

      trust me, it gets messy.
      • Why do we need all the Big BrotherTM crap? How the hell is that supposed to help anything

      Because driving pullovers are the primary means of catching not just DUI's, but of grabbing people with outstanding warrants, bail jumpers, parole busters and of course meeting your all important "War on Drugs" quota. The more excuses there are for pulling you over and making you prove your innocence, the better it makes the monthly arrest sheets look.

      Hmm, I wonder if they can produce a version that detects "Driving a Vehicle Innapropriate for your Ethnicity and Expected Legal Earnings" or "Driving in an Inappropriate Neighborhood for your Ethnicity or Social Status"? That would save the police from having to go through the farce of inventing violations and excuses for stop-and-searches.

    • Years ago, there was a bar in Ontario Canada that I used to frequent. They installed a brethalyzer unit that cost 25 cents to use. It dispensed a sterile paper straw. You inserted the straw in the inlet for the air, blew, and got a reading.

      It even flashed red rather brightly when you were over the legal limit (.08 for that corner of the world).

      At first the patrons didn't like it, but in later weeks it got pretty frequent use, and for some became the badge of honor in a game called "Let's see if we can cause the machine to overload on fumes". The guys would laugh when they set the machine off, but they _would_ go sit back down and wait it out a while longer.

      Mission accomplished, and without the need for the police to become involved at all, or without them becoming notified either.

      Admittedly, this doesn't address the issues of people who won't voluntarily use such a machine, or those that drink in an establishment (or their home) that doesn't have one of these testers, but it was a good non-intrusive, non-offensive start, and it _did_ accomplish some good.

    • Now that's a good idea. I know what I'm getting all my alcoholic friends this Christmas: a breathalyzer keychain / bottle opener.
    • Hey,

      Just sell friggin breathalyzers to the general public so they can see for themselves if they're over the legal limit.

      An interesting idea, but it probably wouldn't work. Just as speedometers allow people to see if they are over the legal speed limit, people will still exceed it by 'Just a bit, it won't matter'.

      If people want self regulation, they could just count how many drinke they've had, and work out from that if they can drive. Or better still, don't drive at all for 6 hours after drinking alcohol.

      A better system would be a relay on the starter motor cable, that turns off when it detects alcohol. That is, people don't get arrested, they simply cannot make the car start if they are drunk. That way, people couldn't drive drunk, but wouldn't have to get arrested.

      Oh, and we in the UK can but one of these []. You can likely get them in America also.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    What's to stop them from transmitting your speed and license plate number as well? Automated speeding ticket robots anyone?

    Keep saying to yourself, "There is no such thing as Big Brother."
    • Oh we have the technology to ticket every single person on the road for speeding. It'd be easy to set up and easy to automate. Doing so would cause an immediate public revolt that would result in speed limits being greatly increased or completely eliminated in a lot of areas. This would result in an extreme drop in ticket fine revenues which many cities depend on. We continue with the arbitrary enforcement of the speed limit not because of a safety issue but because of a revenue issue.
    • What's to stop them from transmitting your speed and license plate number as well? Automated speeding ticket robots anyone?

      At this rate, pretty much nothing. Hell here in little ole Toledo, Ohio, they have cameras at several intersections to dole out tickets for running red lights. What's a few more bucks to install recievers at these same intersections to record and automate tickets for speeding or having "too much" ethanol vapors floating around your car. Before long they'll fine more and clever ways of fattening the localities's cash box from all of the fines.

  • by Sunken Kursk ( 518450 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @08:23AM (#2262624) Homepage
    only criminals will drive drunk.


    Never mind. I thought I had something insightful.
  • by small_dick ( 127697 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @08:26AM (#2262633)
    Something tells me TCU is not going to make the "Top Ten Party Schools" list anytime soon.

  • by ragnar ( 3268 )
    Or it will tell you if a passenger in the car has been drinking, which (last time I checked) isn't against the law.

    I'm really of two minds on this subject. Personally, I think that drunk driving costs way too many lives and is penalized too lightly. Just imagine if car crimes were treated like gun crimes. We really shouldn't treat car abuse so differently, given the vast amount of death and harm that results from drunk driving.

    That said, I doubt if the suggested change will make people more safe, and it certainly isn't lawful to report to the police if a passenger chose to drink alcohol.

  • With an operating range of 18 inches, this technology might not trigger false positives from drunk passengers in taxicabs, but I don't know if I'd want to be the designated driver for my rowdy friends who say "Hey watch this!" and lean over to breathe on my car's sensors, bringing the wrath of the state police.

    MAD and similar groups would be well advised to consider this chilling effect before advocating the use of such devices.
  • by Uruk ( 4907 )
    What if you spill some wine on your seat? Are you going to be officially drunk when driving for the next 2 weeks?

    How on earth would this work? This would be hooked to a transmitter inside the car. Wouldn't this be the very first modification a person would make to their car would be to rip this friggin' thing out?

    What if someone else in the car is drinking? The pigs pull you, and you have to "audition for your freedom"?

    What's the range on the transmitters? Rather than getting the pigs all over you, why not just make other cars able to receive it so people could stay the hell away from you?

    Why does it NOT suprise me that this is coming out of Texas Christian University and not, say, MIT?

    Public safety threat or no, is it a good precedent to make it OK for the pigs to know about the state of your body at all times?

    • Why does it NOT suprise me that this is coming out of Texas Christian University and not, say, MIT?

      That has got to be one of the most bigoted things I have heard said on slashdot. What are you trying to imply? That all Christian universities are incappible of providing scientific research? Heaven forbid (pun intended) that Christian schools try to help the community by developing a solution to one of society's ills.
      • Re:Problems (Score:2, Informative)

        by hylander_sb ( 181045 )
        Perhaps his point was that Christians tend to concern themselves with alcohol consumption, at least in this country. It's a stereotype, true, but not unearned.
      • What are you trying to imply?
        Need I remind you that Prohibition was brought about by a group called, I believe, the Christian Temperance Movement? It's not unreasonable to draw a parallel, or to point out that a religion that a) has a bunch of strictures and b) honestly believes that anybody who doesn't believe is doomed to hell and c) therefore wants to do their best to MAKE people believe "for their own good" is likely to do things like this. And yes, you can parade forth tons and tons of examples of good members of all sorts of religions that would never try this. I can counter with tons and tons of examples, the poor schoolchildren in Ireland being a current example.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Can I get a little thing that, when attached to my head, will alert nearby police if I even think of committing a crime? Can I, please?
  • BigBrotherLand2000 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SubtleNuance ( 184325 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @08:40AM (#2262693) Journal
    Seems like no better a time to repeat:

    They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. "
    - Ben Franklin
    • This particular quote is typically used in response to the question of gun control laws (well, and probably many other things considering it was often used saying during the Revolutionary period), but it seems somehow appropriate here too. :-)

  • Maybe, maybe not (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hylander_sb ( 181045 )

    This idea in and of itself is not bad, so long as its optional. I suppose there are a few people out there who don't trust themselves and would rather have a police officer catch them then be responsible for a death. Once this becomes mandated by government, that would be bad.

    I, for one, would prefer that the police actually do their job. Increasingly, the police are using automated devices to do their policing. It started with radar/vascar/lasers and now we have red light/speed cameras. They don't even have to be present for you to get slapped with a traffic tax. Shouldn't the issue be more about whether you are operating the vehicle safely as opposed to how much of a chemical you've ingested? MD's legal limit just dropped to .08. How can we be sure that no one can safely operate a vehicle at that level? One of the cornerstones of law enforcement is the discretionary power of an officer. Taking that away will go a long way towards creating a Big Brother society

    • This idea in and of itself is not bad, so long as its optional.

      If it were optional, you know there'd be hefty insurance discounts for using it. If or one would love to sign up. I never drive drunk, and I never would let anyone use my car while driving drunk. This was even true when I was 16-24, when insurance companies raise your rates in large part because of the increase in drunk driving among that age group. It would be nice if I didn't have to pay with my money for those drunk drivers, even if I still have to pay with the risk on my life.

      la ya blah da money happiness trying to get past the compression thingy I don't know why it didn't in the first place this is really stupid. Oh... it's the subject? FUCK YOU SLASHDOT.

  • TCU is already working on a new device which can detect blowjobs in the car. If the owner of the car is a politician, the warning signal automatically gets redirected to Washington Post and Time Warner.
  • gob of caulk (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 )

    It's cliche but it's true:

    Remote DUI sensor: $100.

    DUI accusation: thousands of dollars in legal fees and fines.

    Gob of caulk in the intake hose: priceless.

    Yes, there ought to be breathalyzers built into cars, at least if we're going to prosecute drunk drivers based on BAC - there's something fundamentally wrong when you can't know whether or not you're violating the law without taking extraordinary steps. But no way in hell should it be transmitting readings.

  • My favorite line...

    "This would eliminate the need for law enforcement to do random stops as a means of catching drunk drivers."

    This implies that if these devices are mandated, we can trade the tiny bit of privacy we have left for an end to intrusive, unconstitutional roadblocks...

    ...But there's no way in hell they'll ever stop the roadblocks without a Supreme Court rulinng. My neighbor is a cop and she said a good percentage of arrests at roadblocks (sometimes more than half) are for crimes besides DUI, usually because there's a warrant out for the person and they drive through the roadblock. They also target the vehicles of people they know of to be "Druggies" for dog-sniffs while they're at the roadblock.

    The Police want their job to be "easier" at the expense of my individual liberties.

    Whoever posted that Ben Franklin comment should get 1million karma points...
  • A better idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @09:17AM (#2262865) Homepage
    I would like a sensor at the local police station in my neighborhood that alerts citizens when the cops are anally raping black men with a toilet plunger. Then, maybe, I would be interested in installing this sensor in my car.
  • will it detect that too?
  • by Milican ( 58140 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @09:54AM (#2263058) Journal
    I recent Engineering grad from Texas A&M University and I saw some TCU students (I believe the ones mentioned in the article) give a presentation for this at a conference I went to last Spring. I'll come right out and say I didn't like the concept of my car reporting to Big Brother. So if you see any bias in this comment now you know why. Full disclosure I suppose.

    Anyway, If you read the article closely you will see that each of the cars has a radio link that reports to everyone around you the sobriety of the driver. The Linx radio unit is actually a very cheap way to do low bandwidth wireless communications. So slashdot hardware hackers take note :)

    As you can imagine the alcohol monitoring concept did not go over well amoung my classmates. Personally, I think they might as well put a blinking alcohol barometer on your car. Of course, we were college students and our demographics do not lend well to this experiment.

    Another problem I had was with the obvious false positives from an alcohol sensing fuel cell. Perhaps they did find a way to distinguish from ethyl alcohol from bars and rubbing alcohol in perfumes. I know the article says they had, but I have serious reservations about the statement. But since I can't prove either way I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. As many have pointed out here what if you are the designated driver? What if you just went to a bar and someone spilled even a little beer on you? This has happened many times to me. The sensors will have to be ultra sensitive to pick up airborne molecules of alcohol.

    Although the motives of the students are well meant because we all don't want drunk drivers hurting our loved ones the cost to civil liberties are immense. A 24/7 "air tap" for alcohol would be an extreme invasion of privacy. There is no way you could get a wire tap without a court order and I don't know how these guys think they can get car manufacturers and the American pubic to agree to volunatary constant surveillance via an "air tap".

    In any case, to be fair these are Engineering students and their job isn't to decide the politics of the unit. Thats for Political Science types. I agree that their intentions are good, but the implementation is certainly not. I should also mention that the students and faculty I met from TCU were all nice and personable individuals and this comment was not meant to be a personal attack on them in any way. I simply do not agree with their topic of research.

    I am at work right now. But I will try to find some of the notes and info I took from the conference when I get home tonight. I should at least have a copy of their presentation on the conference CD-ROM. So stay tuned.

    • In any case, to be fair these are Engineering students and their job isn't to decide the politics of the unit.

      As an engineering student [] myself, I disagree. I think it's our job when developing products to consider the ethical results. I think we're past the point when we just build something and hand it off to marketing.

      Of course, I work in a group where we have to do a lot of self-marketing [], so maybe I see things a little differently than you do.

    • ...I don't know how these guys think they can get car manufacturers and the American pubic to agree to volunatary constant surveillance via an "air tap."

      Probably the same way they always do things: automakers would be "encouraged" to include them in all new cars. Inclusion would not be mandatory, but probably in the same way that compliance with the mafia is not mandatory. The government could simply say "we think this is a good idea," and mutter things under their breath to the effect of "...and you'll get a looser tax audit if you comply." Same way they got the "black box" into airbags (you do know that if your airbag goes off, a vehicle data recorder notes your speed, whether or not your seatbelt was on, magnitude of acceleration (g-forces), etc.). Once the manufacturers include the devices, including the radio transmitters, the police wouldn't need a warrant--they would need only to listen to off-the-air broadcasts, which is perfectly legal.

      Getting these things into cars and into use wouldn't really be that difficult, and the people could probably be convinced to accept them: "The Chevy Boozer: the first car that will warn you if the kid driving next to you is drunk." Include an interlock device, you get "The Ford Fuzzy Navel: parents, don't you want to keep your kids from driving drunk?" With the proper marketing, the American sheeple will assent to anything. You'd be a "bad parent" if you didn't use the technology.

      The big problem is that sooner, rather than later, somebody (somebody like me, for instance) will find a way to toy with the unit...take a paper towel soaked in pure ethanol and wrap it around the sensor to indicate a 50% blood alcohol level, particularly to somebody else's car (great practical joke!), or route a tube to the outside of the vehicle so that it only receives outside air, thus never registering alcohol. Oh, sure, this will be made illegal, just like smoking in the lavatory on an airliner and rolling back an odometer. Works pretty well, too.

      In short, yes, this can happen. Be afraid, be very afraid.

  • Granted that the Supreme Court has severely limited privacy rights in automobiles (for example, the police can search anywhere within the driver's "wingspan", an area which apparently includes the trunk, despite the driver's (in)ability to reach into the trunk while sitting in the driver's seat), and also granted that drunk driving is stupid, callous, and an extreme hazard to innocent bystanders and other motorists, but this is just a little too intrusive for my taste.

    I think the manufacturer itself recognizes this because the article states it is designed to give police "probable cause" to make a stop. HEL-LO! We're putting a device in your car that essentially searches the content of your body and then notifies a police cruiser in the area electronically so he can have "probable cause"???!!!

    I AM a lawyer, but DON'T do criminal law. However, I believe the proper order is:

    1. Get probable cause; THEN
    2. Stop and search.
    This places the search first and the establishment of probable cause second. The fact that a private party and not the Gov't is respoonsible for conducting the search is essentially a sham in my humble legal opinion.

    There may be circumstances where this is warranted -- as a condition for continued driving privileges after a drunk driving conviction (not using the device to obtain the conviction in the first place, of course) being one of those circumstances. However, there I analogize the device as simply an improvement on the devices already available that lock the ignition until the driver blows into a breathalyzer and proves to be below the legal limit. Again, I am only aware of these ignition lock devices being used after a properly obtained conviction .

    If you go down this road, you will have to make it illegal to remove the device and/or tamper with it. I predict an increased demand for used cars.

  • Not all that new.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <{gorkon} {at} {}> on Friday September 07, 2001 @10:15AM (#2263168)
    These are not all that new. They have installed in some chronic drunks a breathalyzer in the car and the car would not start if the driver was drunk. Granted, a drunk could find a sober person to breath in it, but if his buddies were all alcholoics they might have trouble! :) I think they need to do something to this effect and or start making the bars more responsible (although not entirely....). Once a person gets visibly drunk, he should not be served anymore. Period. That's only a life saving method.

    Here in Columbus, OH you may have heard of the riots on OSU campus last year and the not so great mayor came up with an idea that with in the city limits (actually this might possibly be a state law too) people were only allowed to buy 4 kegs before they had to sing an affidavit basically telling the cops you were having a party and when and where it was. The smart OSU students got around this though (politicians are SO dumb...duh!). They just divvied up the money and say you get 4 you get 4 and you get 4 and now they have 12 kegs! That's a small OSU party. At one raid (where all residents were underage I might add) they confiscated over 50 kegs of beer from ONE house! There's something wrong with that! The students that the law was supposedly designed to protect or defeat got around the law and the guy who's having a huge retirement party can't go buy 8 kegs with out giving out all of the info!
  • Suppose alcohol is poured on my clothes...
    • A drunk friend just vomitted on me, this may happen
    • I bought many bottles and one of these has been accidentaly broken

    In both cases, I might smell horrible, this detector might call some cops, waiting nearby.

    If I have some kilometers to drive and as many cops as I saw last summer in San Francisco (maybe 1 car every 200 meters), then does this mean I'll get arrested every time I'll see one or will th efirst one be able to de-activate my sensor to avoid me these annoyances ?
  • So if they hook this device up to your car and you pass, then you can drive, irregardless of your actual level of intoxication!?

    "Yeth occifer I had a cuple of Thrinks, but I pazzed okay".

    I remember a similar argument a few years ago about putting release handles in trunks of cars after several children were trapped. (why were they there in the first place) If a device is installed, then drinking and driving at some level is okay. This is ridiculous.

    And I won't even get into the problem of detection limits of finding ethanol of source unknown (I am a chemist). Either the device will be set very low (with lots of false positives and civil liberty problems) or too high (and only catch the extremely high levels which normally are stopped anyway)

    I think I'll talk about this one with my brother the cop
  • There has been discussion of this kind of technology in Canada. Except that it would be installed in the ignition sequence of a car belonging to an already convicted multiple drunk driving offender. Before starting the car, the device would require a breath sample. Fail the sample, car does not start. Pass the test, car starts. Noone knows the results of the test except the driver. And the device is only installed on the cars of persons already convicted of drunk driving and the device is part of their sentence.

    As for circumventing the device by getting a sober friend to give the sample: the sober friend might as well drive, if he/she is there to give a sample.

    I for one like the idea of reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road.

  • 433 MHz is right in the middle of the US amateur radio band. As an FCC authorized user of that band, this device and it's kin had best not interfere with me, or I will get them shut down. They are part 15, I am part 97, I win!
  • by Logic Bomb ( 122875 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @11:35AM (#2263621)
    I once read about devices that courts in some state(s?) could order people convicted of DUI to have installed in their cars. It's basically a breathalyzer connected to the ignition system. Before the car will start, one must use the breathalyzer and be under a set limit for breath alcohol content. This is obviously easy to defeat as well, but if you aided a drunk in this manner and someone got injured or killed, you'd be criminally liable for what happened and would be charged along with the driver. Anyway, this sort of system seems much more American to me; only people with previous convictions must prove innocence down the road.
  • Although I'm not certain its necessary, it depends on if it can be used as evidence. If all it can do is signal a cop that there's a POSSIBILITY of a problem, they can watch the car. If the driver then starts swerving or showing other indications of intoxication, they can then be pulled over and inspected more closely.

    And hey... if a cop wants to tail a car for 30 minutes because there MIGHT be someone intoxicated behind the wheel, at least that's 30 minutes they're not bothering anyone else. :)


"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger