The $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act from late 2021 captured public attention for funding a wave of electric vehicle charging services. But buried deeper inside was also a mandate for a new technology that has nothing to do with EVs.

The law calls for a final rule to be issued next year requiring all vehicles sold in the U.S. to have the ability to passively detect when drivers are under the influence of alcohol and prevent them from driving.

That’s a piece of technology that does not exist yet — at least, not as a commercialized market-friendly original-equipment vehicle component.

So the auto industry is scurrying to come up with the technology. And one global supplier, Asahi Kasei, may have a head start in the race.

The Japanese chemical and electronics company has conveniently had a Swedish subsidiary working on alcohol and gas detection sensors for other applications for 25 years.

Asahi Kasei is now working with a consortium of interested parties, including automakers, Tier 1 suppliers and government agencies, to move the technology into commercial feasibility — and to do so in a hurry, said Mike Franchy, director of North American mobility for the company. The law could ask to see the feature on the road as early as 2026.

“To be honest, I think it took everybody by surprise, not only in our company, but at all the OEMs and Tier 1’s that this legislation appeared,” Franchy told Automotive News. “It’s something that’s been proposed in the past. But everybody assumed we’d see it required first in Europe. It really came about here in the U.S. thanks to years of effort by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to work with the auto industry.”

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