Turning Up The Heat: How Ford’s New Software Update Is Protecting Agents

A new software update released by Ford Motor Company last year for its Police Interceptor vehicles aimed at reducing the risk of law enforcement officers or other vehicle occupants contracting COVID-19 will now be standard across all Police Interceptor Utility 2022 models.

According to Greg Ebel, Police Brand Marketing Manager for Ford Pro, after the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, the company has gone straight to the drawing board in search of viable solutions. “We wanted to do something to make the vehicles safer for the front line officers. Officers sometimes transported COVID patients to hospitals. It was a difficult time for everyone, ”he says. “Our engineers sat down to the table and sketched out, ‘How do we make this work? “”

What followed was a heated disinfection solution that was designed as a direct response to the problems created by COVID-19 and the pandemic. “It was a time when a quick response was needed based on customer feedback and how we could disinfect these vehicles. “

How it works

The disinfection software uses the Police Interceptor’s powertrain and air conditioning system. This software solution allows the vehicle to exhaust superheated air in excess of 133 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes into the passenger compartment. Ford worked with Ohio State University to determine the temperature and time needed to help deactivate the COVID-19 virus and found that this combination reduced the viral concentration by more than 99% on interior surfaces and materials used at interior of vehicles.

Once the software is activated, the powertrain and the vehicle’s air conditioning system work together. The software warms up the engine to a high level and the heat and fan settings operate at a high level. The function automatically monitors the interior temperatures until the entire passenger compartment reaches the optimum level, then this temperature is maintained for 15 minutes.

During the disinfection process, the hazard lights and tail lights flash in a preset pattern to notify bystanders when the process has started, then will change at the end to signal completion. The vehicle’s dashboard also shows progress. A cooling process lowers the temperature to its highest points.

Using the software

The software update was initially deployed as a service download with two activation methods. For 2013 thru 2019 Police Interceptor models including Sedan and Utility models, the User Tool can be activated through the OBD2 port inside the vehicle. Some large agencies had the necessary tool from Ford and could install the software themselves, but any agency could have it installed through their local Ford dealership. For 2016 thru 2022 Police Interceptor utility models, the update is installed through a unique sequence of vehicle commands on the steering wheel. For 2020 and 2021 models there is a recently released download service. For all new 2022 models, the update will come from the factory.

There is a certain process in place for fleet managers to follow, according to Ebel. “It’s not like there is a button for heated disinfection where if you accidentally hit it with your elbow, it will go off while you’re inside. It’s quite peculiar with a unique sequence and it’s not going to be accidentally activated. You must activate it and get out of the vehicle.

“It’s an easy process and frankly it’s the right thing to do. Officers, and all law enforcement personnel for that matter, are constantly on the front lines and are subject to COVID and other viruses in the vehicle. They really appreciate the fact that we got to work immediately during a very difficult time, not only for us as a company, but for the country and the world.

Positive feedback

Cpl. JM Short, fleet manager for the 55-member Waynesboro Police Department in Virginia, says the new software has been a game-changer. Just recently, officers transported a woman to a local hospital where she tested positive for COVID-19. “I get a call at two in the morning and I say ‘OK, which car?’ I go down there and turn it on. At the end of my time, the car was ready to be put back into service immediately.

Previously, the service would have had to hire a company every time to spray a mist all over the car and then use ions to blow it out of the HVAC vents. Each time the Waynesboro Police Department had to call the company, it would cost $ 30 per car. “This saves us hundreds, if not thousands of dollars,” says Short. “As far as the weather is concerned, before, if a vehicle broke down at 10 at night, it wouldn’t come back until I got a hold of the guy the next day. The car could be out of service from 12 to 4 p.m.

With the new software update, Short says if an agent calls to report that his vehicle has been contaminated, he can get the system up and running and, in just over an hour, get the unit back to service.

While officers must wipe down the interior of their patrol vehicles after transporting a subject, the new software update has helped add another level of protection. Short says that now, if an agent carries someone who repeatedly coughs or says they have COVID, agents can report it and the software could be activated after the agent and subject get out of the vehicle. “I highly recommend that you use this software,” he says. “To prevent my officers from getting sick, this is a must.”

Ford has started a nationwide police tour of 17 cities (fordpolicetour.com), and Ebel says all the comments he’s heard about the disinfection software have been positive. “We received great feedback from customers on the tour saying, ‘Hey, we use the heated disinfection solution in our vehicles. It’s a great way to keep our officers safe as we go. It also makes their jobs easier so they don’t have to come home after their shift with a rag and a spray bottle to try and sanitize at best. It’s a very efficient solution, and it uses the software and components that are already in the vehicle. It’s been great since we launched it for 2022 and we’re starting to spread this news while interacting with our customers on the tour.

Ebel says with the Delta variant to be feared and an increase in hospitalizations, the country is still not out of the woods. “Now that we are allowing all 2022 model year police interception utilities to have this factory standard, it just helps the agencies move forward. ”