Calling all cars – futuristic cop cruiser takes to LA streets
By Darren Quick
July 7, 2009
A new vehicle billed as the most technologically advanced police car in the world is due to begin testing in the US. Based on the Australian-built Holden Commodore, which were re-badged as Pontiac G8s in the US, the car aims to turn a standard vehicle into a ‘virtual office’ for emergency services personnel. It replaces the cluttered, cockpit-style gadgets that abound in current police cars with a large single touchscreen display embedded in the passenger dash, which is linked to computer systems in the trunk.
Melbourne-based National Safety Agency jointly developed the vehicle with the LAPD as a test-bed to trial the latest technology in a vehicle environment. It includes a range of crime fighting gear including remote WAN and database access, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), vehicle telematics/diagnostics, mobile automatic ink-free fingerprint (incorporated into a PDA) and facial recognition units, officer safety cameras, and HAZMAT/building information.
Trials already carried out in LA showed that a vehicle fitted with ANPR could scan between 5000 and 8000 vehicles in a 10-hour session, with data relayed to officers via a laptop computer. Meanwhile, in-car cameras allow for real-time back-to-base video allowing officers back at headquarters to remotely monitor a live feed of pursuits.
In addition, trials of the facial recognition function showed the technology was capable of identifying gang members, allowing officers to identify suspects without confrontation. However, if there is a confrontation then a duress button allows officers to call for back-up faster than using a radio.
But the most interesting technology for the proposed police car is an air gun that fires a laser guided GPS tracking device onto fleeing vehicles so they can be tracked by via satellite. Officers can target the vehicle in front so that, if it attempts to take off as the officer exits their vehicle, they can fire the device using the key remote.
NSA operations director Des Bahr said, "It will laser guide that GPS tracking device on to that vehicle that's driven off and they can't get out of the vehicle quick enough to get it off, that's how aggressive the glue is."
The feature packed car also includes night vision, molded seats, PIN-activated safe for heavy weaponry and a power-off device that can be activated by headquarters to slow or shut the car down if someone who shouldn’t gets behind the wheel.
The LAPD is said to be enthusiastic about the car with the LAPD’s deputy chief Charles Beck launching an LAPD-liveried Chevy-badged Commodore at the 2009 APCO Australasia Conference & Exhibition in Sydney in March. Other US jurisdictions have also expressed interest, as have law enforcement groups in the UK, Canada, the Middle East and Asia.
Bahr says the move to axe GM's 83-year-old Pontiac brand, as part of the former world number one auto-maker's second viability plan for US treasury, would not affect the LAPD project vehicle’s presentation to law enforcement groups globally. It is believed that if a deal is struck with the LAPD though, the vehicle would most likely be badged as a Chevrolet.
Mr Bahr said two examples of the LAPD Pontiac G8 project vehicle would be sent to the US for testing by mid-year.