(Photos courtesy JP Molnar)
(Photos courtesy JP Molnar)
FEATURED IN VEHICLE OPS
The events of Sept. 11, 2001, catapulted the need for immediate access to information on the street level to the forefront of modern policing. Recent economic troubles have placed a priority on doing more with less, and that means the modern patrol vehicle has been transformed into something more reminiscent of a missile command center: Now officers must be able to access, share and analyze massive amounts of information previously unavailable to them in the patrol car environment.
Motorola is one of those companies with a long history of developing communication devices for the law enforcement market, so it would only make sense that they provide an example of technologies they see as imperative for today’s officer.
Cockpit 2020 Project
Operating a patrol vehicle has always been an exercise in mastering the ability to simultaneously divide one’s attention among numerous responsibilities. Daily life behind the wheel of a patrol vehicle is chaotic, and new technologies have added to the list of things to keep track of. The primary goal of integrated technologies should be to make them “seamless.” So, when Motorola began to discuss the idea of the “next” patrol cockpit, the discussion points started with making new technologies second nature to operate by integrating multiple interfaces into centralized and intuitive processes.
This study, initially named the Cockpit 2020 research project, has evolved into what Motorola now calls the Law Enforcement Experience Program, or LEX. According to Mark Palmer, Director of Human Factors and Design Research at Motorola, “When you look inside a patrol car, you can quickly tell that no systems approach was used to design the cockpit,” says Palmer. “Instead, there are multiple pieces of equipment and multiple user interfaces. And when there are multiple user interfaces in a single environment, that creates problems for the end user—particularly when they’re under stress. So we decided it was time to take a different approach.”
According to Motorola, this approach began by identifying four “phases” of daily law enforcement experiences to understand how to better integrate technology into each of them.
By breaking the daily functions of the patrol officer into these phases, efforts could then be focused on specific technologies for specific phases, as well as how to integrate individual resources toward seamless performance for the officer.
According to Craig Siddoway, Director of Industrial Design at Motorola, “In each phase, we’re trying to imagine the ideal experience for the officer, and how technology can help create that ideal experience. Our goal is to make the technology invisible. In the monitoring phase, police officers spend much of their time just assessing their environment and looking for patterns that don’t make sense.”
This, and many other questions developed during several years of ride-alongs, officer interviews and studies on how humans interact with technology, led Motorola to develop a vehicle based on the new 2011 Chevrolet Caprice PPV that showcases the answers discovered in that process.
The Phases of Daily LE Experiences
Phase 1: Monitoring Phase
The time spent on patrol, observing activities and individuals immediately around the officer.
Phase 2: Preparation Phase
The time when officers are dispatched to a call, or are preparing to initiate a traffic stop or other enforcement action and need as much information as possible prior to arrival or engagement.
Phase 3: Response Phase
The actual time traveling to an incident, effecting a traffic stop or other contact, or taking control of a situation.
Phase 4: Documentation Phase
The time during which the officer issues citations or arrest reports, or gathers investigative evidence and other information.
The Ultimate Patrol Vehicle (UPV)
The UPV aims to provide tangible answers to the questions asked as part of Cockpit 2020 and LEX. Because of this, it’s probably easiest to divide the car into these phases and discuss featured technologies and their reasons for being there.
As humans, we can only process so much information at a time, so anything that helps supplement information gathering when on patrol is helpful. As an example, the UPV features multiple video cameras that provide visual information from every side of the vehicle. According to Motorola, video technology could be used to improve an officer’s awareness by using it to detect potentially dangerous activities. Video analytics technology could allow a camera located in the patrol car to extend the officer’s peripheral vision and to sound an alarm if a dangerous condition develops. According to Bruce Claxton, Senior Director of Innovation and Design at Motorola, “In a sense, you’re augmenting the officer’s existing reality by giving him more information about his environment. You’re using technology to enhance an officer’s perception of the world around him.”
LPR is another example of this information-gathering enhancement. The UPV features four LPR cameras. “Already in the commercial arena, we’re seeing augmented reality applications emerging that allow you to take your cell phone, scan the landscape and receive information on a target object,” says Claxton. “That’s exactly what we’re talking about developing for public safety.”
Knowledge is power, so the more you have prior to engaging a situation or individual, the better. When addressing this phase, Motorola sought to provide real-time data to officers through a variety of sources. One source is the mobile data computer; the UPV Caprice features the MW810 model. The device allows for multiple configurations to tailor to the officer’s preferences. It has extensive mapping capabilities, real-time alerts and updates and can access multiple databases. Its secure messaging allows for sensitive information to be delivered. All of these capabilities are essential for information gathering prior to engagement.
Since time is of the essence, a modem is also installed in the vehicle to allow for real-time video streaming that could allow for intelligence gathering while officers are preparing to respond to a call. Example: If there was a street brawl within proximity to a traffic or intersection camera, or other surveillance camera, that video could be streamed to the responding officers’ vehicles to assist in tactical planning prior to arrival.
We all know that getting somewhere quickly in a patrol vehicle is an exercise in controlled chaos. When it comes to radio, siren and lighting controls, the easier the better. Motorola confirmed this when talking with officers as part of the LEX project, and their solution is found in the UPV’s integrated control head. The specific unit is the 09 Control Head, and because the Caprice is pre-wired for Motorola gear, a Push-To-Talk (PTT) button is integrated into the steering wheel on the UPV—a nice touch.
According to Palmer, “Basically, the 09 takes away the traditional light and siren controls in a vehicle and incorporates it into a larger radio control head, which the police officer also uses to interact with the radio system. It would have been tempting to create a light and siren control on the touch screen because it gives you more freedom as a designer. But the police officers we talked with stressed the need for the light and siren controls to be an integrated, ‘no-look’ control. They told us ‘Don’t mess with the lever.’ ”
On a personal note, I agree. I loved the good ol’ mechanical sliding activation switch on my older siren control boxes because I could find it without ever taking my eyes off of the road. Many newer designs instead feature push buttons or touch-screen controls. In essence, the UPV hits the nail on the head with a centralized, integrated, intuitive control center that minimizes distractions while maintaining intuitive user controls.
Two hours of paperwork for two minutes of excitement. Yes, we’ve all been there. But integrating video capture, GPS and other scanning devices into the evidentiary process is helping to put a dent in that timeframe. It’s also helping to capture information that can ultimately be more valuable in court.
As expected, the UPV features a video-
recording system that uses multiple cameras to capture a detailed account of a situation. But more technologies are on the forefront as driver’s license scanners, GPS, speech-to-text and other technologies continue to integrate into the patrol environment. As Motorola’s Palmer says, “In the future, we’ll be taking this kind of automated data capture to a whole new level. Our goal is to eliminate most of the manual documentation required today.”
The modern patrol car is more NASA than Mayberry, and officers must be able to intelligently operate and maximize the capabilities of technologies that were unheard of a decade ago. Still, the human factor of operating a patrol vehicle hasn’t changed much. Motorola is making valuable inroads by studying how officers use technology and providing ways to better integrate it into our jobs, through examples like the 2011 UPV Caprice. The face of policing has changed dramatically since the events of 9/11, but the desire to provide officers with the latest tools to be efficient, effective and safe hasn’t. For that, we can all be grateful.