Hi Tech Cruisers: Controlled Through Voice Commands
By Steve Jusseaume, The Hampton Union (Hampton, N.H.)
Hampton, N.H. -- An officer on patrol engages a vehicle in a
pursuit. With a push of a button, the officer activates his pursuit
lights, front strobes, calls in for a record check on a license
plate, and notifies both his home base and other jurisdictions of the
Through simple, instant voice messaging, the officer
communicates the situation with other officers without taking his
hands off the steering wheel.
Sounds like something out of "The Jetsons," perhaps, but it''s
not; it''s in practice in more than 100 New Hampshire State Police patrol cars
and is due to be installed in five Hampton Police Department cruisers
as early as next spring.
A fully integrated, voice-operated police vehicle system, which
will allow for instant communication, has been developed and designed
by a research team at the University of New Hampshire. Called
Project54, the system has been installed in 105 state police cruisers
already. Funded through a U.S. Department of Justice grant, the
system is the product of the Consolidated Advanced Technologies
Laboratory (CATLab) at UNH.
A state police cruiser equipped with the system visited Hampton
last week so local officials and law enforcement could see how the
It allows an officer to push a button on the steering wheel,
then, through voice activation, do a number of things, from turning
on outside lights to calling in a license plate number for
identification to switching radio channels, tasks officers have had
to do manually, and separately, up to now.
Brett Vinciguerra, program director at UNH''s CATLab/Project54
and lead research engineer, said development of the system began, in
part, as a response to a 1997 incident when a mortally wounded New
Hampshire police officer sought shelter in a field and another drove
up and was killed before he knew what was happening.
With a handheld device, which should be fully developed within
a year, officers will be able to communicate from outside their
vehicles, through the system in the car, Vinciguerra said.
Currently in production, as part of the system, is a handheld
device, which officers can operate through the cruiser system up to
300 feet away from the car. Hampton Chief Bill Wrenn, after viewing
the system Thursday morning at the town office building, said the
device would be invaluable for officers walking the beat summers at
"With a couple strategically located (computer links) at the
beach, our officers on walking beats could call in license plates,
get records checks, all without calling into the station dispatcher,"
Vinciguerra, who accompanied the state police cruiser to town,
added that his team of researchers is developing an earpiece that an
officer could wear, which would be wirelessly connected to the
handheld device on his belt, and in turn, connected to the stationary
The U.S. Department of Justice has since 1999 funneled $27
million to UNH for research and development of the Project54 system,
with more on the way.
The systems are not cheap. Vinciguerra estimated that
outfitting one cruiser with the system would cost close to $10,000.
In all, including servers and associated wireless panels, etc.,
Hampton will receive about $60,000 worth of state-of-the-art
Once installed in a cruiser, the system can be taken out and
installed in another car with little trouble, Vinciguerra added.
He noted that the state police is in line for more cruiser
systems, and police departments in Durham, Madbury, Hampton and at
UNH are in line to get the system installed.
Wrenn noted that Hampton generally has four or five cruisers on
patrol at any one time, and by this time next year, all will have the
Hampton Capt. Tim Crotts, who has been involved in the grant
application process, said the system could someday be modified to fit
the town''s motorcycle contingent.
"It''s in the preliminary stages, but we are hoping something
can be set up with our motorcycle cops, who would carry the Palm
Pilots. They could call in record checks without ever taking their
hands off the handle bars," Crotts noted.
"The thing I find amazing about this is that a police officer
can do everything virtually without using his hands, and with the
Palm Pilot, he can run record checks, license checks, all on the
street," Crotts said.