Congress attaches the authorization to the $1 trillion infrastructure package that President Biden is expected to sign soon. It will take effect in 2026 at the earliest.
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Intelligent braking systems can predict collisions, while blind spot sensors warn the driver not to change lanes.
But what if a standard car safety system can detect whether the driver is drinking too much?
According to the key terms of the trillion-dollar infrastructure package awaiting President Biden's signing, automakers will be required to equip their cars with technologies designed to prevent drinking or driving under the influence as early as 2026.
The type of technology that will be used is far from being determined, and Congress has not approved ignition lock devices, such as devices that courts usually require criminals who drink and drive to use and involve breath testing.
But organizations like mothers against drunk driving say that safety requirements will save thousands of lives. The organization cited a 2020 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and pointed out that more than 9,000 people in the United States die from drunk driving accidents each year.
MADD President Alex Otte said in a recent statement that the measure will "almost eliminate the number one killer on the American road."
"We need technology to stop nightmares on the road," Ms. Otter said. "Existing technologies and technologies under development will prevent dangerous driving by those who refuse to make the right choice for themselves."
According to the directive, safety equipment must "passively monitor the performance of the driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether the driver may be harmed" and "prevent or restrict the operation of the motor vehicle if damage is detected."
It is not clear what legislators consider passive surveillance.
Congress gave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration three years to issue the final rules for safety devices, which the bill said would give automakers enough time to comply with the measures.
The agency did not immediately comment on Wednesday.
Supporters of the mission pointed out that 68% of fatal drunk driving accidents in 2019 involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15% or higher. The legal limit is 0.08%.
In a statement this week, Auto Innovation Alliance President and CEO John Bozera said the industry organization appreciates the flexibility that lawmakers have given safety regulators to review different technology options.
“The automotive industry has long been committed to supporting public and private efforts to address this tragic threat to road safety, which kills more than 10,000 people every year,” said Mr. Bozera. "Many provisions in the legislation address this important challenge, from supporting law enforcement to advancing technologies that may save lives."
In a January letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Scott Schmidt, the coalition’s vice president of safety policy, stated that the use of accurate data on the driver’s blood alcohol concentration by the drink-driving deterrent system is critical.
He said that alternative driving monitoring systems, including those that rely on cameras, may produce false alarms.
Mr. Schmidt recalled that in the 1970s, federal regulators passed a rule that unless the driver wears a seat belt, the car cannot be started, but it was cancelled due to unpopularity.
"Given the nature of alcohol damage, driver warnings and gentle intervention may be ineffective," Mr. Schmidt said. "Therefore, invasive intervention is required. If such intervention is required, the system accuracy must be very high to meet consumer expectations and avoid strong consumer opposition."