UK engineers find way to stop cars in their tracks

UK engineers find way to stop cars in their tracks

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News & Events - Engineering News

December 27, 2013

Engineering research and development carried out by a UK firm may have found a way to stop speeding or runaway vehicles by hitting them with an electromagnetic pulse.

Tests carried out at an airfield in Worcestershire by Chelmsford-based e2v, a former subsidiary of the Marconi Group and one of the companies involved with the Hubble space telescope, allowed researchers to stop a car traveling at around 15 miles per hour by disrupting its electronic functions, cutting out the engine as a result. The experiments were then repeated on a variety of other vehicles, which consisted mainly of second-hand cars and motorbikes.

According to the BBC - which was present at these engineering research evaluations - a prototype device known as RF Safe-Stop is already attracting interest from police authorities across the country, many of whom see value in being able to disable vehicles when required as opposed to the current method of tire deflation.

Disrupt and confuse
Using electromagnetic waves to interrupt ongoing electronic functions has often been seen as a potential weapon by some government agencies, especially when considering that most modern machines are packed with technology. However, there are those who feel that it could play an important role in 21st century policing or traffic control, with e2v one of a number of companies investing engineering resources in adapting it for specific needs.

"It's a small radar transmitter," said Andy Wood, product manager for the RF Safe-Stop, in an interview with the news source. "The RF [radio frequency] is pulsed from the unit just as it would be in radar, it couples into the wiring in the car and that disrupts and confuses the electronics in the car causing the engine to stall."

The device has a range of around 50 meters and generally provides a five-second burst of demobilizing waves, with its creators confident that it will be able to confuse most vehicles on land and even the water. The intense pulse has already attracted the attention of 17 nations and five UK law enforcement agencies, and initial tests have seen it carry a stand-by charge of around 2 hours, according to The Engineer magazine.

"Normally, the effect happens in three seconds," said Wood. "You should be pretty certain that with one shot you're going stop whatever engine it is you're trying to stop. Then you repeat as and when - if you see the person in the vehicle is trying to restart it you just give it another shot and demobilize the vehicle again."

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