Motorola and General Motors strive to create the 'ultimate patrol vehicle'

At APCO in Philadelphia, Motorola displayed a new Chevrolet Caprice PPV and a Chevrolet Tahoe PPV with a wide array of integrated Motorola devices

The squad car is a law enforcer’s mobile office, and in recent years, so much equipment has been crammed into the cockpit of a police vehicle that one might think the situation comical (if it weren’t so potentially dangerous). Working closely with General Motors, engineers from Motorola have created an innovative solution which ties together a variety of Motorola’s technology offerings in an effort to make the Chevy line of patrol vehicle safest possible mobile environment for the police officer.

On display at APCO 2011 in Philadelphia earlier this month, I was able to check out a Chevrolet Caprice PPV the folks from Motorola were showing off, and see for myself some of the very interesting officer safety enhancements they’ve recently brought to market, particularly the O9 Control Head.

First and foremost is the fact that all the devices that can be moved to the trunk have been moved to the trunk, making the cockpit space considerably less cluttered. For example, the computer boxes for the MVX1000 Digital In-Car Video System, the MW810 Mobile Workstation, and the APX 7500 Multi-Band Mobile Radio are all neatly tucked away in the trunk. The entire setup is completely modular, so in the unlikely event that one of those components needs to be serviced, a swap out with a replacement device is all but instantaneous.

My favorite feature on display from General Motors and Motorola at APCO 2011, is decidedly low tech — the push-to-talk button on the steering wheel. (PoliceOne Image)
My favorite feature on display from General Motors and Motorola at APCO 2011, is decidedly low tech — the push-to-talk button on the steering wheel. (PoliceOne Image)

Innovative Design, Intuitive Controls
Not unlike the setup I’d seen a few months ago from Rockwell Collins, another significant officer safety enhancement is the design of the user interface itself. It’s smaller and more ergonomic than what one now finds in a typical cop car. It’s also got nice, big buttons that are easily distinguishable by touch, pretty much negating the need to look down from the windscreen during high-stress events such as a pursuit.

“If you look into a police car today you’ll see a lot of equipment — most of it disjointed — that don’t work very well together,” explained Eron Usow, a Motorola representative who spoke with me from inside the squad car on display. “One of the things we did when we looked at this control head is to put functions into sections.”

The siren controls, for example, are grouped together in the top left area of the control head — the area of the device that is nearest to the driver — in an intuitive group of three buttons. “The O9 makes every action more efficient, enabling users to focus on the mission not the technology,” said the information card Motorola created for the APCO display. The one-touch emergency button is well-placed at the top right of the device, immediately adjacent to the controls for the takedown and alley lights.

The O9 also includes five programmable buttons across the bottom of the device that can be set to control with a single touch a number of frequently-used communications and warning functions that previously may have taken a number of user inputs. And if you don’t want to touch the device at all, you have that option too.

Voice Activation and PTT
“What’s important about the system that you see here is that you also have voice activation” explained Usow, as he commanded the system to switch from the installed PremierOne Mobile CAD system to the Real-Time Video Intelligence (RTVI) live video stream being beamed to the car via the VML700 LTE Vehicle Modem. The voice activation system, said Usow, can even control the locks for the long guns—those locks, by the way, can also be completely deactivated by the dispatch center in the event that an offender decides to commandeer the vehicle for a “joy ride.”

My favorite feature, however, is decidedly low tech — the push-to-talk button on the steering wheel. “All General Motors vehicles — the Tahoe, the Impala, and the Caprice — will be available with this push-to-talk button as an option right from the factory this model year,” said Usow.

To my knowledge, this is a first (why no automobile manufacturer up to now has done this is beyond my understanding) so kudos to both Motorola and GM for making this option a reality. We’ll see how long it takes for other car makers to place a call to Motorola business development people.

I’ve been duly impressed by the Motorola folks many times in the past — they’re practically famous for their trade-show displays in which they abuse their gear (like when they encased a radio in ice) — but what I saw at APCO 2011 is a whole new level of cool. Although I resisted the temptation to beat my fist on their nice new stuff, I would bet a significant sum of money on the hunch that I’d break my knuckles long before I could break the rugged new offering from our friends in Schaumburg, Illinois.

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