Cop car of the future: part green, part Big Brother

copcar-01.jpg

We've heard a few stories about this concept police car, and now we had a chance to get up close and personal with the beast. And it isn't just the slick designer paint job they've given it that makes it a winner. The downside is how easily this puppy will spot you if its trying to find you. The upside is it uses less power than ever before (except for that V8 under the hood of the VE Commodore).

Jump to see our detailed exploration inside and out, plus some insight into what the guys behind the SAFE Project (Standardised Approach for Emergency Vehicles) think of blocking civilian cell use during major incidents. We'll even tell you the ringtone of the police rep who was looking after the stand. Seriously, take a guess...Bad Boys Theme! Man, Cops was hilarious. Do they still make it? Maybe I should check out The Force, though we don't have quite the same nutjobs as in the USA to make for compelling, amusing TV.

Anyway, back to the car. Let's do the nice stuff first. Gone are the strobes and rotaters up top, replaced by an LED-based set of flashers that use just 9-10% of the power of the old lights. It's also much lighter, which delivers further power gains. AND lasts longer. AND AND it doesn't interfere with radio/data traffic, so the aerials and antennae can be mounted onto this bar. That means much easier installation and removal when cars are decommissioned, so refits are a breeze in this department.

copcar-03.jpg

That box there is the killer new camera. That's what dodgy drivers DON'T want to see. It scans number plates on the fly, checking up to 9,000 registrations in a typical police shift. Those surrounding lights are for nightvision, natch, so you won't be getting away from its viscious, judgmental gaze just because it is dark. Add to this video surveillance and automated fingerprint recognition and we're well on our path to a 2000AD future. What? You like that idea? Fanboy.

copcar-04.jpg

In front of the car there are all kinds of data streams available - mapping, vehicle telematics and diagnostics, records, despatch, emergency service databases, city records, hazardouse material registries, and building data. Data can be viewed on screen or through a HUD in the rear-view mirror (which is user configurable). Then there is the in-car video surveillance which is available over CCTV access at back at communications central in real time, so you can have immediate incident appraisal and remote support.

copcar-02.jpg

Good news! With all that junk in the trunk, no dodgy cop can throw you in the boot. Or if they can, you're really going to get claustrophobic. Like everything else, the gear is all on a tray for easy install and removal, which is a major improvement over the old route of fully integrating systems throughout the vehicle. That's a ruggedised Motorola laptop there on the left, with five different networking technologies in the car to ensure constant connectivity. They told us its ready for Mesh, Wi-Fi, WiMax, GPRS/UMTS/CDMA/EVDO, and P25 Integrated Voice and Data (an emergency service data comms channel).

This was when we got talking about cell blocking. That's what they have done at times like September 11 and the London bombings, to clear the cell jams and make room for emergency services use. But the SAFE Project guys feel you are cutting an important source of data - people who are in the midst of the scene. Without their reports, you are delaying the capacity of emergency services to respond efficiently. That's part of why they are eager to use alternate channels for emergency comms, so there isn't a need to make extra room.

There are two of these concept vehicles doing the rounds right now, with more enhancements to come before they are deployed in Spring 2008. Other improvements include improved battery cooling technology and some solar panelling to improve battery life and performance (power management is a bitch with all this gear on board).