With the new software, the Ford (( Police Utility – a version of the Ford Explorer SUV – can use its engine with the cabin ventilation system to raise the interior temperature to 133 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. It’s hot enough and long enough to kill over 99% of pathogenic germs in the vehicle, including the coronavirus, according to Ford. )
In newer versions of the police utility, officers can initiate the process with a special series of presses on the cruise control buttons on vehicles. In older models of the police utility, from model years 2013 to 2015, the process can be started by a technician using a device plugged into the electronic diagnostic port of the SUV.
“You certainly don’t want it to be something that accidentally activates, so it’s a cycle complicated enough that you have to be careful what you do, to get it started,” said Bill Gubing, Director of Ford passenger vehicles and SUVs.
Once the system is activated, the agent or technician leaves the vehicle. The doors are locked automatically when the engine is operated at an unusually high idle speed of approximately 2,000 rpm. This heats the engine coolant, which is then used to heat the air pumped into the cabin, increasing the cabin temperature for 15 minutes.
Once the car has been kept warm for 15 minutes, a cooling process begins. First, unheated outside air is pumped into the cabin, exhausting hot air. Then, the air conditioning is activated to further cool the cabin.
This system is better than simply cleaning the interior of the car with a disinfectant spray because the heat permeates the entire occupant compartment. Germs are killed even in hard-to-reach areas and there is no way a place will be accidentally overlooked. Certain special equipment installed by the police could block the circulation of hot air in all parts of the vehicle, a Ford spokesperson said.
According to Ford, there are currently no warranties to prevent the system from being turned on when a person or animal is inside the car. It is the policeman or technician’s job to make sure the vehicle is empty before the system starts. If any of the controls inside the car, such as the steering wheel, pedals or gear selector, are moved while the system is running, the process stops automatically.
Adding sensors to reliably detect people or animals inside the car would have delayed sending the system to police cars on the ground, said Gubing.
“We will continue to work with our agencies and get their feedback on how it works and see how we will adjust if necessary in the future,” he said. “But right now, for speed, it really depends on the officer or the initiator. “
The interior of the car will not be damaged by the process, said Gubing. Even though 133 degrees are hot enough to kill viruses and bacteria, it remains well below the 176 degrees, at which the interiors of Ford vehicles are regularly subjected to heat tests. This is as hot as the inside of a closed car can have a summer day in the desert, he said.
The software is available to all police services in the United States that use Ford Police Utilities. So far, the system is only applied to police SUVs, said Ford, as they make up the majority of Ford police vehicles. The system could be made available later for police versions of other Ford trucks, vans and sedans.