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High-tech cop cars keep state police safer, more prepared

Michigan state trooper: 'I can control the functions in my car either by voice command, through a touch-screen computer or via a small pod down by the edge of my seat.'
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The Michigan State Police are testing six high-tech cop cars this year, with plans to turn a total of 50 vehicles into modern Batmobiles over the next years. The Detroit News reports that the MSP cars are using the TACNET software program, developed by Visteon Corp.
"The system is pretty amazing," said Rene Gonzales, who has been a trooper for eight years. "I can control the functions in my car either by voice command, through a touch-screen computer or via a small pod down by the edge of my seat. The system allows me to tell the vehicle to activate any number of functions in the vehicle, including my radar, camera, radio, AM/FM radio, lights and siren.

"It frees me up to concentrate on my driving. I no longer have to type information into a bulky computer while I'm trying to keep my eyes on the road."

Visteon sees computerized control of police car functions as a key way to address safety issues, says TACNET program director Harry Manza.

"Since we're an automotive supplier, we're very conscious of federal safety standards, especially with the air bag deployment zones. We saw the way police cars are currently being set up; they're very crowded and dangerous with equipment in the front seat area. We saw an opportunity to improve the safety of the vehicles for the officers."

Future upgrades will likely include GPS systems and a scanner that automatically reads passing license plates so police can quickly identify stolen cars.

TACNET addresses another key issue with law enforcement and emergency responders. Each agency operates on different radio frequencies. The software allows state police to communicate on all the relevant frequencies.

The system also features a small display screen next to the rear-view mirror. "I can receive information on the screen about radar speeds, car and license registrations. I don't have to call the dispatch center, which frees them to do other things. It's kind of like the information that gets flashed to fighter pilots on the screens of their planes," Gonzales says.

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