New Ford system helps warn police of sinister approaches

AutoA new surveillance system that displays on the rear view mirror in police cars automatically sounds a chime, locks the doors and rolls up the windows if it detects someone approaching the car from behind. It was developed by Ford engineer Randy Freiburger who works with police and ambulance customers to make sure the company's vehicles are meeting their needs. AP

Police could soon be getting some extra backup from their cars.

Ford Motor Co. has a new surveillance system for police cars that automatically sounds a chime, locks the doors and puts up the windows if it detects someone approaching the car from behind. The system which Ford is patenting is the first of its kind.

"It's like insurance. You hope you never need it. But if you do, it gives the officer a few extra seconds of warning,'' says Marc Ellison, vice president of operations at Auburn, California-based InterMotive Inc., which helped Ford develop it.

Backup cameras and sensors usually only work when a car is in reverse. The new system, dubbed "Surveillance Mode,'' allows an officer to use them while the car is parked. An image from the backup camera is beamed onto the rearview mirror, so the officer can keep an eye on the rear of the car. If someone comes too close, four sensors on the rear bumper will detect them. The system works during the day and at night, when officers are often the most vulnerable. It can be turned off if officers are in high traffic areas with a lot of pedestrians.

InterMotive sells Surveillance Mode for $248.33 as a stand-alone option. It's $75 when part of a package of other options, including a dimmer for interior lights if the officer doesn't want to be seen and a system that automatically turns down the radio if a call comes in over two-way radio. If a police car doesn't have a backup camera, the system just uses the sensors.

The company said it anticipates that the system will eventually be available to consumers.

Surveillance Mode is the brainchild of Randy Freiburger, a Ford engineer who works with police and ambulance customers to make sure the company's vehicles are meeting their needs. He got the idea last August while accompanying Yoon Nam, a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

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