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Ford unveils new software to kill germs by heating SUV interior to 133 degrees

Ford unveils new software to kill germs by heating SUV interior to 133 degrees
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Ford announced Wednesday that it has designed a new software that can kill germs in its SUVs by heating their interiors to 133 degrees. 

The company said in a press release that the software was developed to pilot with its Police Interceptor Utility, a version of the Ford Explorer SUV that is employed by law enforcement agencies across the country. The tool would heat the interior of the cars for 15 minutes, which the company said would help reduce viral concentrations inside the SUVs by greater than 99 percent.

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

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Ford teamed up with Ohio State University to gauge the temperature range and time needed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus inside the vehicles and conducted software tests on vehicles owned by the New York City Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department and others. 

“Our studies with Ford Motor Company indicate 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,” said Jeff Jahnes and Jesse Kwiek, laboratory supervisors at the Ohio State University department of microbiology. 

There are currently no safeguards to stop the system from being turned on while a person is inside the vehicle, and it is up to the officer or technician working with the vehicle to ensure the SUV is empty before engaging the software. However, the process will automatically stop if any of the controls inside the car, including the steering wheel and pedals, are moved. 

The project was first started in late March after a discussion with the New York City Police Department “alerted Ford to its need for a more efficient disinfecting process during the pandemic.”

“Law enforcement officers are being dispatched as emergency responders in some cases where ambulances may not be available,” said Stephen Tyler, Ford police brand marketing manager. “During one trip, officers may be transporting a coronavirus patient to a hospital, while another trip may involve an occupant who may be asymptomatic.” 

“Officers can now use this self-cleaning mode as an extra layer of protection inside the vehicle in areas where manual cleaning is prone to be overlooked,” added Tyler. “This virus is an invisible enemy and we are proud to provide a solution to help the law enforcement community fight it.”