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March 26, 2014
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John Rivera Technology Helpdesk
with John Rivera

Could a ‘Heads-Up Display’ in squad cars save lives?

A HUD projects vital information from a source onto a clear surface so the operator does not have to move his or her eyes away from a focal point

As police officers, we all know driving code through streets to a critical incident can be more dangerous than confronting a crazed person with a weapon. I personally have had drivers stop right in front of me, pull to the left instead of the right, and even turn right in front of me.

All of this activity requires the officer’s full attention while en route to a critical incident. The officer is focusing on radio traffic, gathering important updates coming onto the MCT/MDT, and watching the traffic all around him/her. Officers can have a difficult time gathering vital information during this code run.

Often during a lull in activity, I have asked myself what would help my fellow officers gain important information without looking down on the MCT/MDT and taking their eyes off the road.

Heads-Up Potential
One of my conclusions is the Heads-Up Display. A HUD projects vital information from a source onto a clear surface so the operator does not have to move his or her eyes away from a focal point.

For many years, fighter pilots, some airline pilots, and even owners of some of the world’s most exotic cars have used a Heads-Up Display (HUD). In fact, the HUD concept has been around since before WWII, when it was used to help bombers deliver their payload accurately.

HUDs slowly moved from the bomber to the fighter cockpit.  In 1988, a HUD installed in a vehicle was first offered to the private sector (in the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme).

I recently conducted a quick Internet search for portable HUD units and discovered a portable unit is already a reality. Garmin is offering an affordable unit to the public. This unit sits on top of the vehicle dashboard and links to your smartphone via Bluetooth to gain access to a navigation app on the smartphone, thus providing you with directions to your destination.

I spoke briefly via telephone with a company representative from Garmin and was told that navigation is the only function at this time for the Garmin Portable HUD unit.

The display is currently capable of displaying one of two colors. The two colors will not function properly with Windows based systems.

The unit is capable of directing the operator by displaying the speed/speed limit of road or street, current time, distance to turn, and direction of turn.

For me, this is much better than a voice telling me to turn in one hundred yards.

While the Garmin unit is now strictly a consumer device, it’s not difficult to foresee the potential for LE application of Garmin’s technology. Instead of connecting via Bluetooth to a cell phone, this (or another) unit might be able to connect to PC-based units like our trusty MDTs.

This type of technology could prove to be an essential tool for officers in their patrol vehicles because it would allow the driver to maintain their hands on the steering wheel, and eyes on the road (as opposed to on the dashboard) while driving to a critical incident.

In addition, the computer could have talk-to-text software installed, allowing the operator to run a license plate without ever taking his/her hands off the steering wheel.


About the author

John Rivera is a Patrol Officer with the Bremerton Police Department. John’s career BPD started as a Volunteer Reserve Officer and while he volunteered his time as a reserve officer he work as Police Officer at Naval Base Kitsap. He was hired full time in 2006 and attended the Washington State Police Academy. While at the academy, John was selected as the class “Techy” to help with the technologically deficient class instructors. Before John’s law enforcement career, he gained his computer experience through earning a degree in Computer Programming and then working in the computer industry as a Network Administrator and Systems Engineer for several companies.

Contact John Rivera

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