The smart cookies at Ford have worked out how to kill Coronavirus in cop cars.
A software enhancement allows the interior of the Ford’s Police Interceptor Utility to be super-heated.
The raised temperature eradicates the virus from any surface that infected people may have come into contact with and is able to access areas normally hard to reach with traditional methods.
Using the Interceptor’s own powertrain and climate control systems, this software solution elevates passenger compartment temperatures beyond 133 degrees Fahrenheit (56 degrees Celcius) for 15 minutes – long enough to help disinfect vehicle touch points.
Once activated, the vehicle’s powertrain and climate control systems work together automatically to elevate passenger compartment temperatures.
The software warms up the engine to an elevated level, and both heat and fan settings operate on high.
The software automatically monitors interior temperatures until the entire passenger compartment hits the optimal level, then that temperature is maintained for 15 minutes.
To gauge the effectiveness of this sanitisation method, Ford worked closely with Ohio State University to determine the temperature and time duration needed to help kill the COVID-19 virus.
“Our studies with Ford Motor Company indicate that exposing coronaviruses to temperatures of 56 degrees Celsius, or 132.8 degrees Fahrenheit, for 15 minutes reduces the viral concentration by greater than 99 percent on interior surfaces and materials used inside Police Interceptor Utility vehicles,” laboratory supervisors at The Ohio State University department of microbiology, Jeff Jahnes and Jesse Kwiek, said.
Law enforcement will have multiple ways to monitor progress.
Hazard lights and tail lights will flash in a pre-set pattern to notify when the process has begun, then will change at the end to signal completion.
The vehicle’s instrument cluster will also indicate progress.
A cool-down process brings the temperature down from its highest points.
This heated process can be used by law enforcement regularly to help sanitise vehicles when police are not inside.
Used in conjunction with approved sanitisation guidelines, flooding the passenger compartment with elevated air temperature can help reach areas that may be missed by manual disinfecting procedures.
Heat has the ability to seep into crevices and hard-to-reach areas, helping reduce the impact of human error in applying chemical disinfectants.
Ford conducted operational trials in vehicles owned by the New York City and Los Angeles police departments, as well as Michigan and Massachusetts State Police, Boardman Township Police Department in Ohio and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.
The Ford engineering team initiated a project in late March to de-contaminate vehicles using heat.
A discussion with the New York City Police Department alerted Ford to the need for a more efficient disinfection process during the pandemic.
“Law enforcement officers are being dispatched as emergency responders in some cases where ambulances may not be available,” Ford police brand marketing manager, Stephen Tyler, said.
“During one trip, officers may be transporting a Coronavirus patient to a hospital, while another trip may involve an occupant who may be asymptomatic.”
Used to supplement recommended cleaning methods, safely heating the passenger compartment can help ensure vehicles are properly disinfected before being deployed again.
“Officers can now use this self-cleaning mode as an extra layer of protection inside the vehicle in areas where manual cleaning is prone to be overlooked.
“This virus is an invisible enemy and we are proud to provide a solution to help the law enforcement community fight it.”
Large departments with their own service centres can install the software solution using their own diagnostic service tools, while other fleets can work with their local dealers to install the software for 2013-19 Police Interceptor Utility vehicles.
For 2016-19 police vehicles, the heated software process can be activated by a smart sequence of commands that involves pressing cruise control buttons in a predefined order.