Current legislation does not consider the autopilot function of cars to be a legitimate loophole in the DUI laws. You can still be arrested for DUI if you find yourself behind the wheel – self-driving or not. With continued development, using autonomous cars as a preventative measure for potentially dangerous driving is worth reevaluating. Otherwise, it could remain an option that presents considerable danger to the driver and the others on the road. Over in China though, it looks like one tech company has taken a proactive approach.
On January 17, Huawei submitted a patent to the European Patent Office – one describing a system that would determine whether or not the driver is capable of taking control of the car. The program would read the driver and figure out what condition he or she was in. In addition, it would retain past images of the driver and access details such as facial expression and speech to establish if the driver was in an adequate state to drive.
Taking it a step further, the system could detect various forms of impairment, ranging from tiredness to even road rage. Depending on the perceived conditions, the car would take a course of action, such as locking the controls.
The patent explains that the autonomous system may ask the driver a series of questions to better decide its response. Since the system cannot automatically recognize the driver’s state of mind, this analysis would make up for it. Potential enhancements include various sensors and cameras to detect bottles of alcohol, drugs and weapons.
This patent introduces a system that goes beyond what a simple ignition interlock device can do. However, these augmentations are likely to invoke the issue of privacy invasion. It could possibly be effective as a measure implemented after someone has been convicted of multiple DUIs or possession charges. But, would the system be programmed as standard in all vehicles? Programmers will need to develop a reasonable algorithm that determines if I’m opening bottles on the drive home or holding them.
Seems like we still have many variables to consider. Nonetheless, a functional system to help out with DUI problems may not be that far ahead in the future.