Waterloo Region's Sober Steering has been named one of the top 10 startups at the L.A. Auto Show's Connected Car Expo (CCE), 2015.

The company, based in Waterloo’s Accelerator Centre, has developed a proprietary chemical-sniffing sensor that mounts on a steering wheel and detects alcohol through the palm of the driver's hand.

“It came to be out of the passion of the original founder,” Sober Steering Chief Operating Officer Catherine Carroll told Communitech News last year. “He was touched by drunk driving in his own life and was looking to put an end to it, and specifically looking for advanced technology to play that role."

The innovation they developed – which Carroll insists “isn't Star Trek technology, but real, solid, proven technology” – is a sensor mounted inconspicuously on the horn-pad that can talk to the brake interlock system. As with a breathalyzer, the car won't drive until you can prove you're sober. Unlike a breathalyzer, Sober Steering takes up a tiny footprint in the car and can ensure that you aren't drinking while you drive, with easy en route check-ins.

Sober Steering was recognized by CCE's Advisory Board among other startups for “acumen in vision, speed, execution, social buzz, discipline, determination, ability to adapt, unwavering belief in their mission and management skill.”

Of the honour, Carroll said, “It is an exciting time for automotive innovation. Through the rapid integration of new and interconnected technologies, cars are becoming smarter and safer, providing people with a better driving experience.

“Just like seatbelts and airbags, we envision Sober Steering’s biosensors becoming a standard feature in all cars to prevent drunk driving. By integrating our biosensors into a new generation of connected cars, we look forward to working with the automotive industry to develop vehicles that not only withstand crashes, but also pro-actively prevent them.”

The recognition comes at an excellent time for the company as it transitions from startup to early-stage company. “When people look at our technology, they assume we're going directly into OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) – and that we won't actually have a product in the market for years, which is not the case,” says Carroll. “We're starting with a retrofit product in fleet markets, with school buses as the first focus, and working within that market to get the consuming public comfortable with the technology.”

If Sober Steering can make drunk school bus drivers a thing of the past in Ontario, the rest of the driving public won't be far behind.

The company will be featured during the L.A. Auto Show's Connected Car Expo at the J.W. Marriott, L.A. Live, on Nov. 17.