Unveiling a new driver-monitoring safety feature at the Consumer Electronics Show – or CES 2024 – in Las Vegas, Magna International presented a passive system designed to help prevent drunk driving, which at this point is simply called its “impaired driving prevention technology.”
The drunk driving prevention tech will use multiple methods to keep an eye on the driver, with visual cameras and infrared sensors capable of breath analysis both playing a role.
According to Magna, infrared sensors mounted in the steering column measure alcohol and carbon dioxide levels in the driver’s breath. These sensors will use the data to determine if the driver’s blood-alcohol concentration has reached 0.08 percent (or 0.05 percent in Utah), indicating that they are legally intoxicated.
Meanwhile, inward-facing cameras watch the driver, monitoring their behavior for signs of drowsiness, inattention, or dilation of the pupils that may also be indicators of drunk driving. The company claims that the multi-sensor approach “determines if drivers are ‘fit to drive’ in a fast, reliable and affordable way.”
Magna’s president of electronics Bill Snider says “our team is focused on delivering active safety innovations that help reduce accidents and fatalities,” and that the new technology represents “a significant step forward in making the roads safer for all who share them.” Magna International is a major car parts manufacturer producing components for a wide range of automakers, including General Motors.
The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) has called for the inclusion of drunk driving prevention technology on new vehicles to help reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes and deaths on American roads. Additionally, the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law mandates that the NHTSA prepare a rule by November 2024 mandating this technology for new vehicles. The new rule is expected to go into effect in two to three years, or in 2026 or 2027.
GM is already working with the authorities as it develops its own technology, the “Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety” system. This system uses breath detection and touch to prevent impaired driving, though the breath sensors are expected to be available first. Its autonomous driving subsidiary Cruise also partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, with autonomous vehicles seen as a solution to drunk driving.
A 2022 study indicated drivers of GM pickup models, including the popular GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado, are among the most frequent recipients of DUIs. Seven of the 10 vehicle models whose drivers rack up the most DUIs are pickup trucks, with four of those produced by The General.