Toyota Motor Corp. is developing a fail-safe system for cars that detects drunken drivers and automatically shuts the vehicle down if sensors pick up signs of excessive alcohol consumption, a news report said Wednesday.
Cars fitted with the detection system will not start if sweat sensors in the driving wheel detect high levels of alcohol in the driver's bloodstream, according to a report carried by the mass-circulation daily, Asahi Shimbun.
The system could also kick in if the sensors detect abnormal steering, or if a special camera shows that the driver's pupils are not in focus. The car is then slowed to a halt, the report said.
The world's No. 2 automaker hopes to fit cars with the system by the end of 2009, according to the report. Calls to Toyota's headquarters in Nagoya rang unanswered on Wednesday, a public holiday.
Nissan Motor Co., another Japanese car manufacturer, has already been experimenting with breathalyzer-like devices that could detect if a driver was drunken. Similar technologies, such as alcohol ignition interlocks, are in use in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Concerns over drunken driving have surged in Japan following a series of alcohol-related accidents last year. In August, a drunken driver collided with another vehicle carrying a family of five, plunging them off a bridge and killing three children.
The incident prompted stepped-up roadside spot checks by police, who also plan to stiffen penalties for drunken driving.