Ford Motor Company is turning up the heat on its North American police cars to combat COVID-19.
The solution temporarily raises cabin temperatures to more than 56 degrees celsius for 15 minutes to help reduce viral concentration by at least 99 per cent.
Rolling out in Ford Police Interceptor Utility SUVs delivered between 2013 and 2019, the system uses the car’s powertrain and climate control systems to bake the interior, comprehensively disinfecting touch points and hard-to-reach areas.
The feature can be used by law enforcement to regularly sanitise their vehicles when no-one is sitting inside.
The process is automated by software. It is activated by a sequence of commands that involves pressing cruise control buttons in a predetermined order, or using an external tool for older models.
Police can monitor its progress with a distinct flashing pattern from the hazard lights and taillights, and updates are displayed on the instrument cluster.
Ford started the project in late March to supplement time-consuming and laborious manual cleaning methods. It collaborated with The Ohio State University to determine the temperature and time duration needed to kill the fatal virus.
“Law enforcement officers are being dispatched as emergency responders in some cases where ambulances may not be available,” Ford police spokesperson Stephen Tyler explains.
“During one trip, officers may be transporting a coronavirus patient to a hospital, while another trip may involve an occupant who may be asymptomatic.
“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 says.
The automaker conducted trials in vehicles owned by several US police state departments, including New York City, Los Angeles, Michigan and more.
The feature is now being deployed as a software update in the US, Canada, and other countries using the heavily modified model.
The Ford Police Interceptor Utility is based on the standard seven-seat Ford Explorer mid-sized SUV, which are both made in its Chicago plant.
However, Ford has not mentioned when the latest 2020 Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid will get this heating feature. It uses an entirely different sixth-generation platform.
Locally, Australian Police no longer use Ford vehicles after the demise of the Territory SUV and iconic Falcon sedan in 2016.