by Patrick Rall
The new UConnect 12.1 infotainment system that is one of the largest I have ever seen, outside of those high end luxury cars which come with an iPad or a similar tablet mounted in the dash. Shortly after posting pictures of the huge police infotainment system online, I saw people complaining about how it isn’t necessary for police officers to have cutting edge technology, but this new system isn’t about tech; it is about making a car that is safer for the men and women who keep our streets safe.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig talked about the dangers to officers that many of us don’t ever consider. Each year, more police officers are killed in car accidents in their cruiser than by violent attackers. While we hear about cops being killed in the line of duty, we don’t hear about the greater numbers of cops killed as a result of unintentional crashes.
One of the biggest crash risks is the awkward location of the laptop stand in almost any police car, a large, pointy item sticking up between the front seats — an obvious issue if an officer is suddenly thrown side to side during an accident. The aftermarket system can come free during an accident and cause injuries of their own.
In pretty much every type of accident, there is increased risk of injury and/or death from having a computer system hovering between the front seats. [Editor’s note: these are typically not crash-tested as child seats or factory systems are.]
There is also the officers’ comfort; many of them spend long days sitting in their cruisers. In current sedans, officers on the passenger side often have to turn towards the outside of the car or sit with their knee pressed against the metal carrier of the laptop system – neither of which are comfortable for an eight hour shift.
To shpw how much the current laptop system interferes with the interior space and safety of a police car, Dodge had a 2014 Dodge Charger Pursuit from the Detroit police force on hand to compare against their 2016 Charger Pursuit with the new in-dash system. Simply looking into the cabin of the two cars makes clear the advantages of the new system, which takes out the entire intrusive laptop/screen assembly. The entire area between the two front seats is opened up; and the center console is thinner, allowing both officers more leg space.
When sitting in the 2016 Charger Pursuit with UConnect 12.1, there are virtually no obstructions around your knees, and the area between the seats is wide open. When sitting in the 2014 Charger with the normal police computer setup, I had to turn towards my right when seated in the passenger’s seat to avoid having my knee pressed against the large console, and even then, I had the laptop sticking out in front of me – although still very hard to use since it is facing the driver.
With this new in-dash police system, every aspect of the police car is in one touch screen and steering wheel mounted buttons. The driver can easily access all of the functional controls of the police car, from the lights to the siren to the computer, as well as the radio and the climate control. The screens can be customized to some measure, and even has a front-facing camera to record incidents.
For those officers who don’t care for the touchscreen, there is also a component keyboard that snaps neatly into the slim center console, but almost every major function of police duty can be operated from the screen in the dash. Also, since the screen is mounted in the dash, it is equally accessible to both officers seated up front.
With this technology, officers are safer and more comfortable, without losing any of the features that they get from the cluttered interior layout that is standard in pretty much every police car in America. The new police UConnect 12.1 system makes it easier and safer for cops to do their jobs, and that makes the world a safer place for everyone.
Ray noted that there was no microphone in the photos. That’s because the forward facing camera, which is wired in, was not ready yet, so they used an aftermarket mirror. Now forward-facing cameras/radar systems are ready and the demonstration car will get its microphone (inside the rearview mirror) back, according to a Dodge spokesman.
In September 2015, Dodge launched an upgraded 2016 Charger Pursuit car, using a class-leading 12.1-inch screen (1024x768) integrated in the center panel (not available in civilian cars). It connects to a trunk-mounted laptop via Ethernet, and has a keyboard and trackpad between the seats. The display was tested to work with officers wearing gloves, and conditions from -40°C to 85°C (-40°F to 185° F).
The screen can be split to show the normal 8.4-inch UConnect interface (640 x 480) in addition to the police display, and the redundant physical controls are still there, along with a fourth auxiliary button managed through the Vehicle Systems Interference Module (VSIM). Dodge provides power, ground, and fusing for a variety of lighting, siren, computer/modem, or camera systems.
The system was tested starting in 2012 by the Los Angeles Police Department, and includes a backup camera, auxiliary ports, and Siri (for those who link it with an iPhone).
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