Ford is piloting a heated sanitation software solution that it says will turn its Police Interceptor Utility into a "Death Valley for the COVID-19 virus."
The Chicago Assembly Plant is installing the software that temporarily raises the interior temperature of Region-built Police Interceptor Utility to 133 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes to neutralize the coronavirus and decrease its potential spread. Ford said the heating process can be used in any 2013-2019 Police Interceptor Utility vehicles to sanitize vehicles while police are not inside, possibly reaching crevices and hard-to-reach areas that would be missed by just wiping it down with disinfectants.
Ohio State University helped Ford determine the temperature range and time, which is estimated to reduce viral concentration by more than 99%. The process already has been testing with the New York City Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and Michigan State Police, among other agencies around the country.
“First responders are on the front lines protecting all of us. They are exposed to the virus and are in dire need of protective measures,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer. “We looked at what’s in our arsenal and how we could step up to help. In this case, we’ve turned the vehicle’s powertrain and heat control systems into a virus neutralizer.”
The software uses the Police Interceptor Utility's powertrain and climate control systems, turning the heat and fan setting on high for long enough to bake away COVID-19 and any other viruses. The software monitors the internal temperature to ensure it's maintained for at least 15 minutes.
“Law enforcement officers are being dispatched as emergency responders in some cases where ambulances may not be available,” said Stephen Tyler, Ford Police brand marketing manager. “During one trip, officers may be transporting a coronavirus patient to a hospital, while another trip may involve an occupant who may be asymptomatic.”
Police departments with service centers and install the software with their own diagnostic service tools, while smaller agencies go to local dealerships.
“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,” Tyler said. “This virus is an invisible enemy and we are proud to provide a solution to help the law enforcement community fight it.”
For the newest vehicles, the new software can be installed through a smart sequence of commands by pressing cruise control buttons.
“Vehicles from the 2013 to 2019 model years make up the majority of Police Interceptor Utility vehicles currently in use by first responders,” said Tyler. “Delivering this new capability to these vehicles first allows us to help as many officers as possible, as quickly as possible.”