DADSS Program Update: 2020 Year in Review

2020 was a banner year for the DADSS Research Program, as we achieved important milestones that will set us up for greater progress in 2021. Over the past several months, we’ve worked hard to evolve both the breath and touch sensors, analyze important data from our human subject testing, and develop new virtual opportunities and digital resources to increase consumer awareness, acceptance and demand for the technologies. Here are some highlights:

The Breath System
2020 marked the successful completion of the GEN 3.3 breath system, which was a key milestone for two important reasons. First, this GEN 3.3. system is poised to be made available for commercial licensing in late 2021 for use by fleets implementing a zero–tolerance alcohol policy for their drivers. This means that DADSS technologies will be on the road in higher quantities than ever before. Manufacturing partners are already lined up for low-volume capacity to support commercialization of the GEN 3.3 systems in 2021, with high-volume capacity to follow in 2023.

The second reason this is so important is because it will give engineers significantly more data to analyze – data that will be key to evolving the sensors into a next-generation GEN 4.0 system with enhanced accuracy, precision and reliability. This GEN 4.0 system is the version that will be made available for installation in consumers’ passenger vehicles, likely by 2024.

To date, researchers have successfully reduced the size of the breath sensors by 85%.

The Touch System
The touch technology continues to progress, as program engineers focus on making improvements to the electronic system and integrating upgraded optics so the sensors will be faster, cheaper and use less power – which are all key to commercialization. The current touch system is still too large to be integrated into vehicles, but researchers have developed a path, along with its laser provider, Sensalight, to further reduce the size and then implement the subsequent testing that is required before it can be made available to consumers. DADSS researchers hope to integrate next-generation touch sensors into test vehicles, which will follow with additional human subject testing.

To date, researchers have successfully reduced the size of the touch technology by 89%.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program had been making excellent progress on testing the technology. This includes nearing the final number of participants needed to ensure the data collected through early rounds of human subject testing using the GEN 3.2 breath sensors is statistically sound.

Despite delays, the program was able to complete on-road and human subject testing for the GEN 3.2 breath sensors– a crucial step in the development of next-generation sensors that will eventually be used for commercial fleet vehicles. The next step is for test vehicles to be retrofitted with new GEN 3.3 sensors so that a fresh round of human subject testing can begin in Summer 2021. These tests were originally on track to begin in 2020 but were delayed due to COVID-19 health restrictions.

Testing for the DADSS program is conducted in two ways. The first is human subjects testing – where humans are “dosed” with alcohol in a safe, tightly controlled environment at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. The second is human subjects driving – where sober drivers are mixed with “dosed” passengers in a natural vehicle environment to ensure the sensors accurately distinguish between drivers and passengers.

Both tests are equally important to ensuring the sensors operate with the highest levels of accuracy, precision and reliability before they can be made available to the general public.

To date, researchers have collected 136,678 breath, blood and touch samples in more than 443 human subject and driving tests since this stage of the program began.

State Partnerships & Consumer Awareness, Acceptance & Demand
In 2018 and 2019, the DADSS and Driven to Protect Team participated in community events throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, giving the public a first-hand look at the alcohol detection technology and the ability to interact with the latest sensors. For 2020, in response to the pandemic, the team launched a new Discovery Hub – a suite of online resources to provide the same in-depth look at the technology and the development process. The Discovery Hub, now live, also has educational modules and videos designed to educate the public about the dangers of alcohol impaired driving.

In 2020, DADSS’s Driven to Protect partners in Virginia also hosted an Ask the Experts webinar where attendees were able to learn more about the DADSS technology directly from experts and ask questions about the ongoing development. Because of the success of this initial virtual event, additional webinars are planned for 2021. Click here to learn more about the Discovery Hub, and click here to watch the Ask the Experts webinar from 2020.