Volvo puts drunk drivers on notice

In-car technology will take control when drunk drivers are acting dangerously, as Volvo looks to end deaths and serious injuries in its cars


Volvo will add sensors to detect drunk drivers and distracted drivers, announcing all vehicles on the SPA2 platform will be fitted with advanced driver monitoring technology from the early 2020s.

Subaru already has a driver-monitoring camera in the Forester, designed to force owners who take their eyes off the road to pay attention, but Volvo is promising to take things a step further, by using the semi-autonomous systems in its vehicles to take control.

The move is a response to figures from the American NHTSA, revealing almost 30 per cent of traffic fatalities involved drunk or drugged drivers in 2017.

When the cars detect an impaired driver, they could limit their top speed, alert Volvo on-call assistance and, if all else fails, take over and park the car on the side of the road.

As for how the system will know when you’re too drunk to be driving? A lack of steering input, having your eyes closed (or off the road) for extended periods of time, and extreme weaving across lanes are all telltale signs, along with significantly delayed reactions.

These behaviours are also consistent with people distracted by their phones.

“There are many accidents that occur as a result of intoxicated drivers,” said Trent Victor, professor of driver behaviour at Volvo Cars.

“Some people still believe that they can drive after having had a drink, and that this will not affect their capabilities. We want to ensure that people are not put in danger as a result of intoxication.”

The news comes just weeks after Volvo announced it’ll limit the top speed on its cars to 180km/h, as it pushes to have no-one die in its cars.

According to the company, the move is designed to start a conversation about whether carmakers have an obligation to install technology “that changes their driver’s behaviour, to tackle things like speeding, intoxication or distraction”.

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