In 2008, NHTSA and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), representing the nation’s leading automakers, began a five-year, $10 million cooperative research effort to create the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). In 2012, Federal passage of MAP- 21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, reauthorized the Federal Aid Highway Program and allowed continued funding of this project through September 2014.

The purpose of the DADSS research effort is to develop non-invasive technology that will prevent a person from starting a DADSS equipped vehicle if the driver has an illegal BAC limit of .08 percent or above. While there is still much work to be done, NHTSA estimates the technology could be ready for general use and integrated into vehicles in the next 8 to 10 years.

The goal of the research is to develop technology that is absolutely reliable, accurate, affordable, precise, tamper-resistant, durable under extreme environments and requires minimal maintenance. Additionally, this technology must be unobtrusive, especially to those drivers who don’t consume beverage alcohol. In other words, for these devices to be acceptable to the motoring public, they must be seamless to operate.

Technologies developed under this project are envisioned to be voluntarily installed as an option on new cars.

Read more about DADSS Technology

The current technology used in alcohol ignition interlock devices is accurate, but the devices require drivers to provide breath samples each and every time they attempt to start their vehicles. The devices also require periodic rolling tests while the vehicle is in operation and prohibit motor vehicle operation at any measureable BAC level. Additionally, it requires regular maintenance to ensure proper operation. While this approach is acceptable for use with convicted DWI offenders, it is far too intrusive for widespread use.

During Phase I of the DADSS project, two technological approaches were identified as promising for measuring driver BAC non-invasively. The first is tissue spectrometry, a touch- based approach allowing estimation of alcohol in human tissue, and the second is distant spectrometry, a breath-based approach that will allow measurement of alcohol concentration from the subject’s exhaled breath.

The touch-based approach allows BAC estimation by measuring light absorbed at particular wavelengths from a beam of Near-Infrared (NIR) reflected from the subject skin. Touch-based systems require skin contact.

The breath-based approach requires that infraed or laser light be transmitted to the subject from a source that receives and analyses the reflected and absorbed spectrum, to assess chemical content of liquid in vapor.  No skin contact is required

In Phase II of the project, two technology providers were selected to develop the technologies: Autoliv Development AB of Vårgårda, Sweden; and Takata TruTouch Automotive Solutions of Pontiac, Michigan. Their two approaches demonstrated the potential development to measure BAC quickly and with high levels of accuracy and precision. Their challenge in Phase II is to incorporate this technology into such a form that it may be installed in a research vehicle and meet all of the requirements of DADSS.