Every year, the Los Angeles Auto Show has its Design Challenge. This year’s theme was the “Highway Patrol Vehicle of 2025.” General Motors, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Subaru all submitted concept vehicles. The criteria for these futuristic patrol cars included future needs for advanced technology; speed and agility on future freeway systems; creativity of the solution; and meeting a specific region’s emission standards and environmental sensibility that includes maintenance and recyclability. Interestingly, unmanned drones that keep officers out of harm’s way were the heart of several of the designs.
There were two concepts from Honda: the CHP Drone Squad from their Advanced Design Studio, California and the CHiPs 2025 Traffic Crawler from their Advanced Design Studio, Tokyo. The CHP Drone Squad also features drones for use in the harsh environment of California highways that could be used without the need for new infrastructure.
The Drone Squad is comprised of a two-vehicle system. The Auto-Drone operates as a manned or unmanned mission control vehicle that deploys Moto-Drones. Moto-Drones are unmanned motorcycles that can be used for multiple response and rescue missions. The 2025 Traffic Crawler is a hydrogen-powered three-wheeled motorcycle.
The General Motors Advanced Design California’s Volt Squad is a three-vehicle “fleet.” This includes a command vehicle, a ground-based pursuit vehicle, and an airborne unit. The concept is electric-powered and thus based on a future evolution of Voltec drivetrain already used in Chevrolet Volt.
The winning design was the SHARC (Subaru Highway Automated Response Concept) from Subaru Global Design. The SHARC is an affordable and environmentally conscious highway patrol vehicle designed to meet Hawaii’s strict UltraGreen carbon-neutral environmental regulations. SHARC vehicles are powered by renewable energy and operate autonomously, eliminating the need for a large full-time highway patrol staff in light of reduced budgets.
The SHARC vehicle deflates so it fits into a launch barrel when not on duty. The inflatable body skin is made of a nonwoven flexible and bulletproof Kevlar composite fabric so it can withstand extreme environments. Electromechanical flexible suspension arms made ionic-polymer metal composite bend and flex to take on preprogrammed shapes under varying amounts of applied voltage, allowing deflation of the vehicle.
The autonomous SHARC vehicle has a dual-mode traction system. Here flexible suspension arms adjust the wheel angles for maximum driveability under all conditions—a high-speed tread for highway travel and a rugged surface for off-road duty. The Yokohama-designed tires use a sustainable organic foam compound.
While the other designs are pretty way out, Mercedes-Benz’s Ener-G-Force is the closest to a vehicle that might actually be in use by 2025. It is based on Mercedes-Benz’s G-Class SUV that has been around since the 1970s, albeit with continual updates. Indeed, Mercedes-Benz displayed a proposed civilian version of the concept at the LA Auto Show. The Ener-G-Force was designed by the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio in Carlsbad, Calif.
The law enforcement Ener-G-Force has a similar profile to the civilian version, however, with a higher shoulder line and scaled-down glass areas. Smaller glass areas provide a safe cocoon for officers. Emergency lights integrated into the roof are impossible to ignore; the striking front leaves no doubt as to the commanding presence of the police, and the gigantic wheels guarantee the right of way even where no way exists.
Power for the Ener-G-Force comes from fuel cells. Recycled water carried in tanks on the roof is
transferred to the “hydro-tech converter,” for conversion into hydrogen for the fuel cells. Four wheel-hub motors are used with output for each individual wheel is adapted precisely to the respective terrain by high-performance electronics. A “Terra-Scan” 360-degree topography scanner on the roof scans the surroundings and uses the results to adjust the spring and damping rates as well as other suspension parameters for maximum traction, regardless of whether off-road or on the road.
William D. Siuru, Jr., PhD, PE is a California-based automotive journalist and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.