Police in hot pursuit of the world's most technically advanced cars

Vehicles feature face recognition, satellite GPS and automatic number plate recognition

One of the world's most technically advanced concept police cars may join state emergency service fleets following its showcase in Melbourne later this month.

The Holden Commodore VE SS was modified in the National Safety Agency's (NSA) Emergency Services Concept Vehicle Project (ESCV), and features satellite GPS, multi-agency communications, biometric-enhanced GUIs, and advanced power and heat management.

NSA director, Des Bahr, said the car was designed to identify where enhancements can be made in current emergency services vehicles and their effect on performance and officer safety.

"We looked at current systems and how we could enhance them, predominately around power and heat management because we had trouble controlling them previously," Bahr said.

"The internal programs and processes now run on a single operating platform which reduces power and heat, and gives more functionality to deploy more advanced systems like automatic number plate recognition.

"It will have a significant impact for emergency services which has shown keen interest in the project from the start."

A PDA-ready on board computer can stream biometric data such as fingerprints and facial images from the National Criminal Investigation DNA Database freeing officers from the need to return to stations to process identities.

An installed automatic number plate recognition scanner, similar to the device used by the Los Angeles Police Department, can tag some 9000 plates in a single shift, which is a massive improvement on the previous manual data input system used at the officer's discretion.

The car automatically adjusts idle power to accommodate for the power consumption of devices, preventing flat batteries when officers monitor roadside traffic.

LED lighting replaces energy-sapping incandescent bulbs to save additional power and reduce heat output.

Bahr said the year-long project was a joint effort between Motorola, General Motors, and Monash Universities' electrical engineering faculty, and its Accident Research Centre.

"The [research centre] advised us on where to locate the technology for ergonomic and safety requirements which ensured devices won't impede driving," he said.

The car joins an impressive list of performance police cars including the Lotus Exige which was lent to Bankstown Police, the Chrysler 300C in Victoria, the Brabus Rocket in Italy, and the 612 Ferrari Scaglietti in the United Kingdom which has a top speed of about 320 kph.

The SmartDemo international event will be held at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds on August 14-15, 2007.

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