Objective: The research objective of the present investigation is to demonstrate the present status of passive in-vehicle driver breath alcohol detection and highlight the necessary conditions for large-scale implementation of such a system. Completely passive detection has remained a challenge mainly because of the requirements on signal resolution combined with the constraints of vehicle integration. The work is part of the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program aiming at massive deployment of alcohol sensing systems that could potentially save thousands of American lives annually.
Method: The work reported here builds on earlier investigations, in which it has been shown that detection of alcohol vapor in the proximity of a human subject may be traced to that subject by means of simultaneous recording of carbon dioxide (CO2) at the same location. Sensors based on infrared spectroscopy were developed to detect and quantify low concentrations of alcohol and CO2. In the present investigation, alcohol and CO2 were recorded at various locations in a vehicle cabin while human subjects were performing normal in-step procedures and driving preparations. A video camera directed to the driver position was recording images of the driver’s upper body parts, including the face, and the images were analyzed with respect to features of significance to the breathing behavior and breath detection, such as mouth opening and head direction.
Results: Improvement of the sensor system with respect to signal resolution including algorithm and software development, and fusion of the sensor and camera signals was successfully implemented and tested before starting the human study. In addition, experimental tests and simulations were performed with the purpose of connecting human subject data with repeatable experimental conditions. The results include occurrence statistics of detected breaths by signal peaks of CO2 and alcohol. From the statistical data, the accuracy of breath alcohol estimation and timing related to initial driver routines (door opening, taking a seat, door closure, buckling up, etc.) can be estimated.
The investigation confirmed the feasibility of passive driver breath alcohol detection using our present system. Trade-offs between timing and sensor signal resolution requirements will become critical. Further improvement of sensor resolution and system ruggedness is required before the results can be industrialized.
Conclusions: It is concluded that a further important step toward completely passive detection of driver breath alcohol has been taken. If required, the sniffer function with alcohol detection capability can be combined with a subsequent highly accurate breath test to confirm the driver’s legal status using the same sensor device. The study is relevant to crash avoidance, in particular driver monitoring systems and driver–vehicle interface design.