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Directions in Highway Safety, Spring 2007 Cover Page Download Newsletter pdf
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Summer 2007 | Vol. 10 | No. 2

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Nissan Debuts New Technology to Combat Drunk Driving

Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Company has unveiled a new concept car that showcases a variety of innovative anti drunk-driving technologies that could potentially be applied to future production cars. The car, a production model Fuga sedan, features alcohol odor sensors, a facial recognition system and driving behavior monitors, all designed to detect the driver's state of sobriety and, if appropriate, activate various preventative measures.

Nissan logo

The alcohol odor sensors work on two fronts. First, a high-sensitivity alcohol odor sensor built into the transmission shift knob can detect the presence of alcohol in the perspiration of the driver's palm. When alcohol is detected above a certain threshold, the system will immobilize the car by locking the transmission. A second alcohol sensor incorporated in the driver's and passenger seats can perceive the presence of alcohol in the air inside the car, prompting a voice alert.

The facial recognition system works through a small camera mounted on the instrument panel facing the driver. The camera monitors the driver's state of consciousness through his eye blinks. Detection of drowsiness will trigger a voice alert and an automatic tightening of the seat-belt mechanism to gain the driver's attention.

Lastly, the driving behavior system is able to identify signs of inattentiveness or distraction in the driver by monitoring the operational behavior of the vehicle (for example, if it is veering out of the driving lane). Similar to the facial recognition system, when the system detects such behavior, it issues a voice alert and activates the seatbelt alert mechanism.

Nissan is working on its anti drunk-driving technology as part of a larger safety campaign. In Japan, the company's safety vision is to halve the number of traffic fatalities or serious injuries involving Nissan vehicles by 2015, compared with the 1995 figures.

These technological advances should have positive impacts for MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. According to MADD CEO Chuck Hurley, "This announcement, coupled with the work of Saab and Volvo, along with that of others in the United States and around the world, demonstrates the real possibility of technology helping to eliminate drunk driving."