The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) Research Program

Every year in the U.S., drunk driving claims approximately 10,000 lives and costs approximately $194 billion.

Our Work

Despite progress over the past three decades, drunk driving claims approximately 10,000 lives each year. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) Program is researching a first-of-its-kind technology that holds the greatest potential we have seen to reverse this trend. The technology will automatically detect when a driver is intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08% — the legal limit in all 50 states except Utah — and prevent the car from moving. Once it has met rigorous performance standards, it will be voluntarily offered as a safety option in new vehicles — like automatic braking, lane departure warning and other advanced driver assist vehicle technologies.

Read our Frequently Asked Questions for more information on the development process and how the technology works.


The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) Research Program brings together the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), which represents the world’s leading automakers, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in one of the most important government and private sector partnerships in transportation history. Public-private partnerships like DADSS have led to innovations that enhance our everyday lives, such as the Internet, GPS and the microchip.

Congress and safety advocates nationwide are supporting the effort, making DADSS part of a multi-faceted national commitment to reduce and help eliminate drunk driving. The research and testing is being overseen by a team of independent engineers and scientists, and also being tested under real-world operating conditions before it is made available as a consumer option.

Technologies We're Exploring

The goal of the DADSS Research Program is to advance the state of alcohol detection technology by developing a system that is fast, accurate, reliable and affordable — all without affecting normal driving behavior. The program is exploring two different technologies for installation in new vehicles: a breath-based system and a touch-based system.

Breath System

This system measures alcohol as a driver breathes normally, when in the driver’s seat. It will be designed to take instantaneous readings as the driver breathes normally and to accurately and reliably distinguish between the driver’s breath and that of any passengers.

Touch System

This technology measures blood alcohol levels under the skin’s surface by shining an infrared-light through the fingertip of the driver. It will be integrated into current vehicle controls, such as the start button or steering wheel, and take multiple, accurate readings.

Program History & Timeline

The DADSS Program began in 2008 and was focused on research and creation of proof-of-concept prototypes to determine which technological approaches were most promising for vehicle integration. After extensive research, it was determined that the breath system and touch system were most viable.

Since that time, the Program has focused on ensuring the technology meets strict performance specifications related to accuracy, precision and reliability, so sober drivers are not inconvenienced, and so drunk drivers are never allowed to operate the vehicle.

In 2018, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced the first trial deployment with James River Transportation (JRT) to conduct in-vehicle, on-road test trials of the technology with sober drivers in naturalistic settings. This initiative, called Driven to Protect, was expanded to Maryland in 2019. That same year, the Program expanded on-road testing to include controlled, in-vehicle tests with drinking passengers, to determine how the sensors respond to real-world conditions. Those tests continue today.

In 2021, the Program announced the first-generation system equipped with the breath technology will be made available for open licensing in fleet vehicles for the first time ever. ACTS will begin licensing the technology to interested parties and a product equipped with the breath technology will be made available in late 2021 to any existing fleet or company that wants to outfit it into their vehicles – whether it be transportation vehicles, government fleets, rental cars, transportation vehicles, trucking companies, etc. This system is designed for fleet operators implementing a zero-tolerance alcohol policy for their drivers.

Today, teams of engineers, chemists and data scientists are working to reduce the size of the sensors so they are small enough to fit into passenger vehicles, can withstand harsh environmental conditions, do not require extensive calibration and can last the entire lifetime of a vehicle. Previous transportation safety innovations like airbags have taken a minimum of 20 years to be tested and approved for the public’s use, and the DADSS Program is on track to be completed in less time.

Also in 2021, the Program announced the largest trial deployment of the DADSS technology to date, through a new trial deployment with truckload carrier Schneider. The pilot will help generate hundreds of thousands of real-world operating miles needed to commercialize fully passive vehicle-integrated breath technology — marking a new milestone toward the widespread deployment of the DADSS technology.