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May 28, 2020

Ford Wants to Use Its Vehicles' Climate Control to Neutralize Viruses

Ford is looking to tap their cars’ climate control to help neutralize viruses via a software enhancement. The American carmaker is now pilot-testing it using its Explorer-based Police Interceptor Utility.

Ford’s solution is simple: “bake” the car’s interior until viruses are rendered inactive. Through a software solution, the vehicle’s powertrain and climate control systems work together to raise passenger compartment temperatures beyond 56 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes—long enough to disinfect vehicle touchpoints.

To research the effectiveness of this sanitization method, Ford worked closely with The Ohio State University to determine the temperature and time duration needed to help inactivate the COVID-19 virus. The university has determined that Ford’s method can reduce the viral concentration by “greater than 99 percent” on interior surfaces and materials.

Users, in this case, law enforcement agents will have multiple ways to monitor progress. Hazard lights and taillights will flash in a pre-set pattern to notify when the process has begun, then will change at the end to signal completion. The vehicle’s instrument cluster will also indicate progress. A cool-down process brings the temperature down from its highest points.

This heated process can be used by law enforcement regularly to help sanitize vehicles when passengers are not inside. When used in conjunction with sanitization guidelines approved by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flooding the passenger compartment with elevated air temperature can help reach areas that may be missed by manual disinfecting procedures. Heat has the ability to seep into crevices and hard-to-reach areas, helping reduce the impact of human error in applying chemical disinfectants.

Ford is now conducting operational trials in vehicles owned by the New York City Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Michigan State Police, Massachusetts State Police, Boardman Township Police Department in Ohio, and Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

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