SFU unveils roadside device to test for drugs, alcohol (with VIDEO)

University researcher's visor-like device tests eyes for signs of impairment

A Simon Fraser University researcher has developed what’s being billed as the first portable device that could one day help police test suspected impaired drivers for both drugs and alcohol.

Ehsan Daneshi, a Phd candidate in computational neuroscicence, is co-founder of Opthalight, a company developing mobile eye examination tools, including the visor-like device that uses eye stimuli to detect impairment.

“No other device on the market can test for both drugs and alcohol,” Daneshi said. “This includes marijuana, LSD, cocaine and other drugs. Less than one percent of drug or alcohol impaired drivers are being caught every year. This is a real breakthrough for DUI detection technology that will help save lives and keep our roads safe.”

Currently in Canada, police officers test those suspected of drug-impaired driving by performing eight routine eye tests with a flashlight.

The results from these exams can be subjective and may vary based on the officers training, experience and interpretation. If the driver fails, they are then taken to the police station for further tests.

“The difference is that our device performs the tests objectively and quantifies the test results accurately,” Daneshi said. “Our device has the ability to produce admissible court evidence by creating results containing charts and photos of the driver’s eyes. The user-friendly software interface helps eliminate human error and can be used on any mobile device.”

Without a formal education in business, Daneshi, a trained engineer, joined SFU’s Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization program in 2015. The program provided funding and mentorship to help him the optical technology and expore commercial uses.

Ehsan has received further support through SFU’s Venture Connection, a business incubator, and has garnered several awards for Ophthalight.

“The scientists and engineers who come into our program are highly motivated. Their challenge has been to identify, validate and prioritize market opportunities,” asid Elicia Maine, academic director of SFU’s GCSTC. “It’s my hope that Ehsan’s device gets adopted by police enforcement officers across North America.”

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