An array of cameras and sensors in upcoming Volvo vehicles could allow the cars to detect drivers who are intoxicated or who seem to be driving erratically or distracted. If bad driving is detected, the vehicle could take action by slowing down, contact an assistance service or even pull over and park, the company said.
It’s not entirely clear how the vehicles will detect drunk drivers, but some previous proposals have focused on testing the ambient air in the passenger compartment for a certain level of alcohol. However, such proposals don’t take into account that there could be intoxicated passengers adding their breath alcohol to the air. It seems unlikely that Volvo will incorporate ignition interlocks into their vehicles, but it is a possibility.
When it comes to other poor driving behaviors, the carmaker hopes its cameras will be able to detect a number of issues, including:
- Lack of steering input for long period
- Closed eyes
- Extreme weaving across lanes
- Excessively slow reaction times
Volvo is planning these and other safety changes beginning in 2020. Starting that year, all models will have a speed limiting device that will keep them from being driven faster than 180 kph (about 112 mph). The technology to detect intoxication and distraction will be phased into models starting in the early 2020.
Another upcoming feature is called the Care Key. It allows the owner to impose a temporary speed limit on the vehicle when it will be lent to another driver.
“Many want to be able to share their car with friends and family, but are unsure about how to make sure they are safe on the road,” Volvo said in the statement. “The Care Key provides one good solution and extra peace of mind.”
Volvo hopes that the technologies will save lives. It also expects them to bring down insurance rates for Volvo drivers.
It will be interesting to see if Volvo’s technology is advanced beyond existing driver-assistance technologies. Currently, so-called “autopilot” systems do not relieve the driver of responsibility for being alert and ready to take over at the first sign of trouble. Cars with autopilot systems are therefore no safer than other vehicles for intoxicated drivers to operate.
Until the technology substantially improves, you should never rely on your vehicle to be a counterweight to your drinking or distraction. The best plan is to avoid drinking before you’ll be driving, or get a sober ride.
If you end up being arrested for DUI, it’s crucial to get representation from an experienced DUI defense attorney. Don’t even consider pleading guilty until you’ve had your case evaluated by a lawyer.