In a recent landmark decision toward the prevention of drunk driving-related accidents and fatalities, the U.S. Congress has passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will mandate anti-DUI technology on all new vehicles by as early as 2026.
The new mandate is aimed at improving auto safety due to increasing fatalities, and is expected to be signed by President Joe Biden in the near future. According to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, car makers will be required to prevent their vehicles from being driven while under the influence of alcohol.
Specifically, automakers will need to install “Advanced Impaired Driving Technology” on all new vehicles, which is defined in the act as a system that can “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired and prevent or limit motor vehicle operation if an impairment is detected. […] Or can passively and accurately detect whether the blood alcohol concentration of a driver of a motor vehicle is equal to or greater than the blood alcohol concentration described in section 163(a) of title 23, United States Code, and prevent or limit motor vehicle operation if a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit is detected.”
In 2019, the U.S. witnessed 10,142 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities that involved blood alcohol concentration level of .08 or higher. Moreover, the U.S. government projects the new technology included in the mandate to prevent up to 90% of such fatalities.
Although the new mandate was met with approval by safety groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, some safety experts and digital rights groups have expressed concerns due to the potential privacy implications of these new technologies.
“It is also extremely important that a technology designed to control human behavior not be imposed before it is clear that civil liberties are protected and the technology works properly – without false positives where law-abiding drivers can’t start their cars and false negatives where law-breaking drivers over the legal alcohol limit rely on the technology to make the dangerous assumption that they are safe to dive,” reads a letter by the American Highway Users Alliance to Gizmodo.
In addition, the group also voiced concerns regarding the processes involved in the collection and storage of driver data. Finally, experts including Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn, have questioned the accuracy of driver monitoring technology and raised the issue of potential risks of bias.
“Attention tracking technology is error-prone and biased,” said Fox Cahn. “We’ve seen this sort of technology discriminate against individuals with disabilities when it’s used for remote proctoring, and it will be just as biased on the road.”