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Ford-Havis-LAPD Embedded Screen

Written by John Bellah

A major factor in upfitting today’s police vehicles is the abundance of equipment: computers, radios, light/siren controllers, radar/lidar, license plate readers, e-printers, in-car video, patrol rifle…the list keeps growing. Today’s police cars have generally smaller interior space, so the concern is intensified by departments that field two officer units. Other issues are where to deploy the equipment so as not to interfere with the airbags, all the while being ergonomically efficient and healthy.

The Los Angeles Police Department has been one of the leaders in law-enforcement vehicle upfitting. Vartan Yegiyan, LAPD’s Director of Police Transportation, and Sergeant II Daniel Gomez, of the Information Technology Bureau of LAPD’s Tactical Technical Section (TTS) are at the forefront of safe and productive upfitting for the NextGen vehicles.

Over the past couple of years, the LAPD has worked with General Motors on a concept interior touchscreen on a Chevrolet Caprice and Tahoe. Then they worked their interior ergonomic magic with Chrysler on a Dodge Charger. Both these sedans have the computer monitor neatly mounted in the center of the dash, well away from the airbag deployment zones. Thus there are no sharp brackets or corners to cause injury in the event of a collision. Additionally, the majority of the police electronics are neatly mounted in the rear of the vehicle, freeing up valuable interior room.

Havis chose the Police Fleet Expo to unveil the technology buzz of the season: the NextGen in-dash mounted screen in Ford’s Police Interceptor Sedan and Police Interceptor Utility. This is LAPD’s vision of the future police vehicle, the next step forward in police interiors and upfitting. The PFE attendees had the clearance to work with the system, and talk with representatives from LAPD, Havis and Ford.

With more law enforcement devices added to smaller police vehicles, the in-dash screen is a major upfit solution. The LAPD worked with Ford, Havis, Australia’s National Safety Agency and Lectronix to jointly develop this solution. Officers will have an integrated screen with touch controls for all of the upfitted emergency and communication equipment.

Ford’s design effort led Havis to make a dash molding that precisely and securely wraps a Lectronix monitor. Computer Aided Design data from Ford allowed Havis to use factory OEM mounting points for the screen’s location and all the required fasteners. Lectronix custom software provides the technology to complete the integration.

The LAPD design puts an emphasis on officer safety and comfort, ergonomics (human machine interface), saving interior space and technology integration. New police car infrastructures demand the safe mounting and the easy use of multiple radio connections, multiple video inputs, relocated HVAC and vehicle controls, radar detection, ALPR systems, laptop-tablet computers, printers and other upfitted enforcement gear.

As with their previously upfitted Caprice, Tahoe and Charger, Yegiyan and Gomez wanted an in-dash mounting of the computer screen, to reduce the clutter of the police gear in the passenger compartment. This is for various reasons. First, for the deployment of two-officer patrol units. Second, for officer safety in case of a collision—the flush, in-dash computer installation provides fewer sharp edges to injure the occupants.

According to Yegiyan, the LAPD is “equipment agnostic,” meaning there is no loyalty to any specific brand of equipment. In other words, they are free to choose any brand, any make, and any model that best suits LAPD’s needs.

The OE touchscreen on the Ford PI Sedan and Utility (and all the other NextGen vehicles) is too small for law enforcement purposes. After a joint effort by LAPD, Ford, Havis and Lectronix, a 12.1-inch, high-resolution touchscreen computer monitor was neatly mounted in the dash. This replaced the OE screen without modifying the dash. Thus, after the vehicle is removed from law enforcement service, the touchscreen can remain in the vehicle or the OE screen remounted in the dash.

The touchscreen has a chemically strengthened glass face for durability and impact resistance. The LCD screen is readable in bright sunlight conditions and can be viewed by either the driver or passenger due to the 90-degree viewing angle. The screen is optimized so the touchscreen will function with wet hands or if the operator is wearing gloves. This equipment has been specifically designed to survive in a rugged automotive environment and can survive in temperatures between (-)5 deg F to 160 deg F.

The majority of the computer equipment is mounted in the trunk, which frees up much-needed interior room and simplifies repairs and maintenance. The tray on which the equipment is mounted rolls out. This equipment is modular, meaning if a problem develops, the offending module is replaced with a new or refurbished unit and the vehicle placed back in service again. Like many departments, LAPD removes spare tires from the trunk to free up trunk space. If a replacement tire is needed, a repair truck can be quickly dispatched to change out the flat.

The Lectronix interface module prioritized the vehicle’s audio system—the AM/FM radio and allows it be switched between the vehicle and police modes. The module will plug directly into the OE Ford harness, simplifying upfitting as it is “plug & play.”

While most computer screens operate in “landscape” mode, this system operates in portrait mode and the software has adapted the data to operate in this mode. This system is designed so the important touchscreen controls, which are essential during vehicle operation, such as radio frequency selection, emergency lights and siren controls, are at the top of the screen. This requires less eye movement between the driver’s view of the roadway and the computer screen.

Less essential functions, such as running vehicle plates or internal e-mail are controlled at the bottom of the screen. Additionally, the four mappable buttons in the steering wheel can be adapted to assignable police functions. The factory HVAC controls, airbag indicator light, and hazard flasher controls have been removed and relocated to the rear of the center console. The revised panel also has tactile controls, meaning they can be identified and operated by feel, for system volume, power, and to black out the display.

Neatly mounted in the trunk is an on-board computer interface that can handle law enforcement needs such as interfacing with forward-facing infrared, Automatic License Plate Recognition, radar, GPS, emergency light and siren controls, and the police computer, which can handle queries on individuals, vehicles, property, report-writing software, and internal e-mail communications. This system also allows Internet usage as it can connect to WiFi hotspots.

Yegiyan is adamant that all of the essential law enforcement controls be standardized on all of LAPD’s vehicles, enabling an officer from the Harbor Division to jump into a Northeast Division unit and have no problem in accessing essential controls in stressful situations. Another nice touch is USB and 12-volt ports are installed in the center console to allow officers to recharge their personal electronic devices, like cell phones.

 

John L. Bellah is a retired corporal from California State University, Long Beach Police Department. He is also technical editor for Police Fleet Manager Magazine and covers fleet issues and vehicle testing of police vehicles. He can be contacted at pfmteched@gmail.com.


Published in Law and Order, Apr 2014

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