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Ford will sanitize its police SUVs by blasting them with massive amounts of heat

Imagine if you could help stop the spread of coronavirus using an over-the-air software update for your car. That might sound impossible, but it’s something that Ford has developed as a way of maintaining sanitary conditions for its line of Police Interceptor Utility SUVs during the current pandemic. It could quite possibly work, too — just make sure you’re not in the vehicle itself when it’s doing its job.

According to a recent report from The Drive, the “Interior Cabin Heat Soak” update will aim to neutralize any surfaces that could carry the virus. There is no consensus yet on how long coronavirus can survive on different surfaces but, depending on which study you read, it could be anywhere from 72 hours to seven days on surfaces such as plastic. Heat could potentially help sanitize these surfaces. Ford’s approach involves heating the interior of its Police Interceptor Utility vehicles to 133 degrees Fahrenheit for a period of 15 minutes. That’s equivalent to the temperatures in Death Valley, California, one of the hottest, driest places on Earth.

According to Ford, the new Interior Cabin Heat Soak feature will be able to kill 99% of contaminants through its quarter-hour heat blast. This could be used by police officers at the start and end of a shift to ensure that the vehicle is ready — and safe — for the next cops coming on duty. The technology was developed in conjunction with researchers from Ohio State University, who helped calculate the right temperature and duration of heat blast needed to “inactivate” COVID-19.

The software will work on Police Interceptor Utility vehicles dating back to 2016. Older vehicles, meaning those that date to 2013, will be able to take advantage of it as well, although they will need to have additional hardware installed in order for it to function. The heating cycle will be indicated by hazard lights and tail lights flashing in a preset pattern. They will change again at the end of the cycle to signal completion of the process.

The software is available immediately for Police Interceptor SUVs in the United States and Canada. Other police vehicles could potentially follow in the future.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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