This is the technology in the police car of the future

Jon Lawson

Police and first responder vehicles are set to undergo a technology revolution, writes Philip Handschin. There’s already a focus on app-based solutions, and there is now a shift towards exploring remote control functionality, the relaying of surveillance footage to a car’s dashboard and even augmented reality. However, all this functionality needs to remain intuitive and easily integrated with the large format touch screens that are becoming commonplace in today’s vehicles.

Now we can tap into the systems that OEMs build into cars, utilising these screens and the existing hardware for communication and connectivity, and add functionality that empowers police and first responders to allow them to work more effectively and make better-informed decisions.

Using information highways

Every second counts in an emergency, and responders need to have access to the latest information – whether they’re running standard checks, on route or in pursuit.

The status of team vehicles, including air support and other emergency services is vital, as is getting on scene quickly – taking into account traffic and other delays. All this means that information presented to the driver and passenger in a form that is quickly assimilated is vital. The benefits that augmented reality can provide are obvious when considering navigation, call status and database information. It also means the crew need not take their eyes off the road, and can make better decisions with fewer distractions.

With the emergence of drones and advanced robotics such as the headline grabbing Boston Dynamics’ Spot (see how that’s being used underground here), it isn’t too much of a stretch to see how video and data from units operating in dangerous environments can be relayed to vehicles and allow police, paramedics and even fire fighters the chance to react accordingly.

Already many police and responder services are moving to mobile devices, with smartphones replacing separate items of equipment. In some cases smart platforms and apps now form part of the daily work process, including reporting and file management, database access and team communications.

With a host of connectivity services built into the cars at the factory as standard, allowing an officer’s phone to sync with a vehicle is an obvious first step, but modern specialist systems can go beyond what standard consumer systems offer, such as making calls. For example VNC’s IVI connectivity software includes options like the automatic locking of the car when away from it, and the ability to activate remote functions like sirens, cameras and PA systems, or even transmit location information in an emergency.

Looking ahead this line of thinking allows for the future integration of wearable tech that can cover biometrics, personal security and incident management.

Reducing police car cabin pressure

With long shifts and the requirement to wear bulky equipment, anything that can make officer’s time in vehicles safer, more productive and comfortable is welcome. That extends to the ease of using the systems and technology – if the controls are awkward and movement restricted mistakes will be made and time lost. Modern software allows additional hardware, like rugged laptops, to be safely stowed in the boot yet seamlessly integrated via the factory-fitted touch screen. And there’s a knock-on benefit when it comes to passenger safety. The severity of injury during a collision rises steeply if there’s bulky equipment mounted near the dashboard. With clutter removed, airbags and other safety systems can operate as originally intended.

With so much technology in each vehicle, their function moves beyond mere transport and they effectively become intelligence gathering hubs - passing valuable, first-hand data back to a central command centre and allowing the coordination of teams and other services. Extending this idea, video and other data will be transmitted and the live feed from every vehicle used to provide a valuable net of surveillance around a serious incident. Recorded and indexed this could prove vital as evidence for later convictions.

• The author is a Technical Consultant at VNC Automotive.