Research Recap, November 14: Diminishing Drunk Driving, Metrorail Safety, Future Energy Forecasts

Anti-drunk driving technology for use in private vehicles is now undergoing on-road testing through the U.S. Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program. Photo by Alex Proimos.

Welcome to “Research Recap,” our series highlighting recent reports, studies and other findings in sustainable transportation policy and practice, in case you missed it.

Diminishing Drunk Driving

The U.S. national program to develop anti-drunk driving technology, Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), began on-road testing of two technologies for potential application in private vehicles. The two developing technologies are a breathing-based blood alcohol content (BAC) detection system and a touchpad-based BAC detection system. The breathing-based system, developed by Autoliv Development AB, is a contact-free, multiple-sensor system that calculates the carbon dioxide concentrations of drivers’ exhaled breath. The touchpad-based system, developed by Takata-Tru Touch, shines an infrared light on the user’s skin to uncover its unique chemical properties. A drivable test vehicle equipped with the new technology is expected to be ready in two years. DADSS began in 2008 and is a five-year, $10 million research effort of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS).

Metrorail Safety

Metrorail employees in the Washington, D.C. metro area are overworked and subject to fatigue, according to a new study by the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and the Tri-State Oversight Committee. The study is the culmination of a five-month partnership between WMATA and the Oversight Committee, and it raises concern over unsafe working and passenger conditions. There are currently no state or federal laws in the U.S. limiting the number of hours metro staff are permitted to work. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find employees working long hours to earn overtime pay and increase retirement benefits, the study says. The study will be presented at WMATA’s board of director meeting next week.

Future Energy Forecasts

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released this year’s edition of its annual flagship publication, the 2011 World Energy Outlook (WEO). The WEO report outlines the world’s energy system, at present and forecasted through 2035. The 2011 WEO calculates the global oil demand to rise from the 2010 rate of 87 million barrels per day to 99 million barrels per day in 2035. All anticipated net oil demand growth is expected to stem from growth in the transport sectors of emerging economies. The 2011 WEO also forecasts the global passenger vehicle fleet size to increase, doubling to reach almost 1.7 billion in 2035. At the launch of the WEO 2011 publication, IEA offered a warning that without strong changes in policy direction, the world’s future energy system will be insecure, inefficient and carbon intensive.

For comparison, last week’s Research Recap highlighted research from Ricardo Strategic Consulting, which calculated that global oil demand will peak before 2020 and fall back to 2010 levels by 2035, and that the global vehicle fleet size will grow by 80 percent between 2010 and 2035.

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