Rampant Speculation: Should There Be an App for That?

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If the walk to the car looks like this, get out of the middle of the road and call a cab.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announceda bold set of targeted interventions to put the country on a course to eliminate alcohol-impaired driving crashes.” Basically, this means persuading or coercing states, over time, to towards 0.0 as the allowable BAC to drive.  The NTSB claims that:

Today, investigators cited research that showed that although impairment begins with the first drink, by 0.05 BAC, most drivers experience a decline in both cognitive and visual functions, which significantly increases the risk of a serious crash.

On Friday, I went to BevMo for some adult beverages for the holiday weekend.  Three different breweries offered tastings, from run of the mill IPAs to exotic chocolate one-offs with 10% ABVs.  I didn’t sample everything, but I knew I sampled some high test beers in that 20 minutes.  Whoo!

Then it was time to check in with the home office.  I have an Android phone, with speech to text, so I spoke my message.  I have had the phone for a while, so it has adapted to my speech patterns pretty effectively.  Mostly. Then this happened:

Your fone 50 working fine.  I was offline fertile bad at bevmo, king all f***ed up

(Your phone is working fine.  I was offline for a while then at bevmo, getting all f***ed up)

Maybe smartphones are the answer for self-screening.  Maybe someone could develop an app that applied a coherence standard to its user’s speech, the way that word processor software can assess the reading level of written text.  If you talk to the machine and the transcription exceeds a certain threshold of gibberish, the app would warn you that maybe it’s time for a taxi.

Yes, there are hurdles:  background noise, uncalibrated users, overreaching software/EULAs that cause the phone to alert nearby cops to your failed self-test.  And, of course, enterprising prosecutors will try to use your self-diagnosis against you in court.  For law abiding citizens just trying to be safe, maybe this is not such a bright idea.

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