CLAIM: President Joe Biden has signed a bill that will give law enforcement access to a “kill switch” that will be attached to ALL new cars in 2026.
FACTS: While a provision of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Biden signed last year requires advanced drunk and impaired driving technology to become standard equipment in new cars, experts say that technology does not amount to a “kill switch,” and nothing in the law gives police access to these systems.
The false claims began circulating in the months after Biden signed the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2021. Social media users falsely claimed that a provision in the bill would give police access to data collected by the technology or allow the government to shut down cars remotely.
Experts who have been involved in the creation and study of impaired driving prevention technologies for years say that these claims do not accurately reflect what these tools do, or what the law says. The law gives the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency under the Department of Transportation, three years to define the specific technologies cars should start using. Once set, automakers have up to three years to comply.
The law only specifies that the technology must be equipped to passively monitor a driver’s behavior or blood alcohol level, as well as to prevent or limit the operation of a motor vehicle if the driver is intoxicated. Existing and developing technologies generally fall into two categories: driver monitoring systems that use sensors or cameras to monitor driver behaviors, head or eye movements, and alcohol that use touch or breath-based sensors to measure the driver’s blood. alcohol concentration.
In either case, if a driver is intoxicated, the car can use a warning message, prevent the driver from driving the vehicle, or, if the vehicle is already in motion, direct the driver to a safe stop or a automated return home. According to Jeffrey Michael, a researcher at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Johns Hopkins University, none of the technologies currently in development would inform law enforcement of the data collected inside vehicles or give government agencies the remote control of vehicles.
“I have been associated with this technology since its early development and it has always been viewed as a prevention device rather than an enforcement device,” Michael said.
Robert Strassburger, president and CEO of the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, is involved in a partnership with NHTSA to develop an alcohol detection system for vehicles. He said the partnership agreement includes the obligation to put in place security measures that would prevent third parties from accessing the data collected by the technology.
Strassburger said the term “kill switch” is hyperbole, as none of the options considered would include the risky move of tipping a fast-moving vehicle to a sudden stop. Mothers Against Drunk Driving — a nonprofit that championed and helped draft bipartisan bills that led to the provision — said it would not support law enforcement or entity access. commercial to one of the impaired driving data that will be collected in the vehicles.
“What’s circulating online is absolutely false,” said Stephanie Manning, government affairs manager at MADD. “MADD is fully committed to an automotive technology standard that protects driver privacy.” NHTSA did not respond to a request for comment.