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Nissan rolls out drink-proof cars

'I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you drive'

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Drink drivers could be prohibited from driving under the influence if new technology from Nissan is introduced.

The Japanese car maker has developed a new odour detection system designed to prevent drivers from operating a car if they are over the legal limit. The system works by using a series of sensors to detect the level of alcohol the driver has consumed.

A high-sensitivity alcohol odour sensor is built into the gear stick, which is able to detect the presence of alcohol in the perspiration of the driver's palm as he or she attempts to start driving. If the alcohol level detected is above a pre-determined threshold, the system automatically locks the transmission, immobilising the car. A voice alert is also issued via the car navigation system telling the driver that they are over the limit.

Extra sensors are also placed in the driver and passenger seats and a warning is issued if these sensors detect the presence of alcohol in the air inside the vehicle cabin.

While still in the developmental stages the concept of drink driving detectors being built into cars has generally been welcomed by Irish drivers contacted by ENN.

"It sounds like a good idea. Having said that, among my friends drink driving is just not done. I notice the difference between my generation and my parents'. I'd think twice about driving after a glass of wine with a meal, whereas I know a lot of people my parents' age just wouldn't think about it at all," said Clare Hayes-Brady, a driver living in Booterstown in Co. Dublin. "So, in theory a very good idea and worth a trial, but I wouldn't bank on it being much good as regards fatality statistics."

John Sheridan, from Dromiskin in County Louth, felt the prospect of not being able to drive home would ensure a lot of drivers acted more responsibly when out on the town. "I'd say it would cut down on people drinking and driving. It would see a lot of people go the extra mile and not drink at all for fear the quota in their car might be breached," he said.

The possibility of potentially cutting down on the number of people drink driving was welcomed by Kevin Burke, from Deansgrange in Co. Dublin, but he added the developers needed to ensure the technology in place was capable of functioning precisely. "If it stops drink driving then it's a good thing, so long as it works properly," he said.

The system also contains features designed to detect, and react, if drivers are falling asleep at the wheel - facial recognition technology detects signs of drowsiness such as increased blinking of eyes - or if drivers are otherwise distracted - technology monitors operational behaviour of the car, such as veering out of lane.

Nissan said the technology is part of a project aimed at halving the number of fatalities and serious injuries in Nissan cars by 2015 compared to 1995 levels.

© 2007 ENN

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