Smart vehicle sanitization solution turns up the heat on coronavirus

May 28, 2020 // By Rich Pell
Smart vehicle sanitization solution turns up the heat on coronavirus
Automaker Ford Motor Company says it has designed a new heated software enhancement to its Police Interceptor Utility SUV that law enforcement agencies across the country can use to help reduce the footprint of the COVID-19 virus.

The software solution temporarily raises the interior temperatures of a vehicle beyond 133 degrees Fahrenheit – hotter than Death Valley on the hottest day – for 15 minutes to help reduce the viral concentration inside the vehicle by greater than 99 percent. The smart vehicle technology, says the company, is available immediately on all 2013 to '19 Police Interceptor Utility vehicles in the United States, Canada, and other countries around the world.

"First responders are on the front lines protecting all of us," says Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product development and purchasing officer. "They are exposed to the virus and are in dire need of protective measures. 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.”

The solution works by "baking" the vehicle’s interior until viruses inside are inactivated. Once activated, the vehicle’s powertrain and climate control systems work together automatically to elevate passenger compartment temperatures: The software warms up the engine to an elevated level, and both heat and fan settings operate on high. The software automatically monitors interior temperatures until the entire passenger compartment hits the optimal level, then that temperature is maintained for 15 minutes.

To research the effectiveness of this sanitization method, says the company, it worked with Ohio State University to determine the temperature and time duration needed to help inactivate the COVID-19 virus. Studies conducted by the company and university indicated that exposing coronaviruses to temperatures of 56 degrees Celsius, or 132.8 degrees Fahrenheit, for 15 minutes reduces the viral concentration by greater than 99 percent on interior surfaces and materials used inside Police Interceptor Utility vehicles.

Law enforcement will have multiple ways to monitor progress, says the company. Hazard lights and taillights will flash in a pre-set pattern to notify when the process has begun, then will change at the end

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