Ford’s new heated software enhancement helps US police vehicles neutralise Covid-19

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 29 May 2020


American carmaker, Ford has designed a new heated software enhancement to pilot with its Police Interceptor Utility – one that law enforcement agencies across the United States can utilise to help reduce the footprint of the Covid-19 virus.

The company says the latest example of smart vehicle technology, this software solution is available immediately on all 2013-19 Police Interceptor Utility vehicles in the United States, Canada and other countries around the world.

“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. 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 neutraliser,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product development and purchasing officer.

Raising the heat to fight Covid
So how does it work? Ford says the solution is simple: Bake the vehicle’s interior until viruses inside are inactivated. Using Police Interceptor Utility’s own powertrain and climate control systems, the software solution enables vehicles to elevate passenger compartment temperatures beyond 133 degrees Fahrenheit (56deg C), hotter than Death Valley on its hottest day, for 15 minutes – long enough to help disinfect vehicle touchpoints.

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.

The OEM says to research the effectiveness of this sanitisation method, Ford worked closely with The Ohio State University to determine the temperature and time duration needed to help inactivate the Covid-19 virus.

“Our studies with Ford Motor Company indicate that exposing coronaviruses to temperatures of 56 degree 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,” said Jeff Jahnes and Jesse Kwiek, laboratory supervisors at The Ohio State University department of microbiology.

To inform the progress of the sanitisation process, law enforcement will have multiple ways to monitor it – hazard lights and taillights 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.

The company says this heated process can be used by law enforcement regularly to help sanitise vehicles when officers are not inside. When used in conjunction with sanitisation guidelines approved by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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 says it conducted software operational trials in vehicles owned by the New York City Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Michigan State Police, Massachusetts State Police, Boardman Township Police Department in Ohio and Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

The engineering team at Ford initiated a project in late March to de-contaminate vehicles using heat. Shortly after, a discussion with the New York City Police Department alerted Ford to its need for a more efficient disinfecting process during the pandemic.