Ford's Police Interceptor vehicles can now turn up the heat on coronavirus

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. is rolling out new software for its Police Interceptor Utility vehicles to heat their passenger compartments to temperatures as hot as Death Valley on its warmest day to disinfect the interior against the coronavirus.

The technology, Ford said Wednesday, heats the interior above 133 degrees for 15 minutes to kill the virus — figures that showed a quick reduction in the virus's stability, according to a study by the World Health Organization. It is immediately available for 2013-19 model-year vehicles in the United States, Canada and other countries.

Flashing hazard and tail lights of Ford's Police Interceptor Utility vehicle warn officers that the high-temperature interior disinfecting process is running. The sanitation procedure seeks to limit the spread of COVID-19 to first responders.

“First responders are on the front lines protecting all of us. They are exposed to the virus and are in dire need of protective measures,” Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product development and purchasing officer, said in a statement. “We looked at what’s in our arsenal and how we could step up to help. In this case, we’ve turned the vehicle’s powertrain and heat control systems into a virus neutralizer.”

Ford worked with microbiologists at The Ohio State University to determine the temperature and time duration needed. The researchers found the combination reduced viral concentration by more than 99% on interior surfaces.

Since late March, Ford's engineering team has looked at how to disinfect vehicles using heat. Ford conducted operational trials with a number of U.S. police departments, including the Michigan State Police and New York City Police Department, which directly reached out to Ford for help on the matter.

The software can be activated by a sequence of actions involving cruise control buttons or through an external tool. Flashing hazard and tail lights indicate when the sanitization process is in action. The function also includes a cool-down mechanism.

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble