Cruiser of the future

If you happen to see a Mountie talking to no one while driving his cruiser, don’t be alarmed.

Const. Shane Mykyte demonstrates how the voice-controlled system works in a police cruiser.

Const. Shane Mykyte demonstrates how the voice-controlled system works in a police cruiser.

If you happen to see a Mountie talking to no one while driving his cruiser, don’t be alarmed.

The officer is using a new vehicle computer voice command system to activate sirens, lights, radar and a computer screen with various files and folders. But unlike the old television series Knight Rider, this computer doesn’t answer the operator.

Const. Shane Mykyte, a traffic member with Red Deer detachment, said on Friday that the vehicle’s reliability is being tested locally.

The cruiser was borrowed from Airdrie detachment, where it’s been part of a pilot project in Southern Alberta detachments.

The voice-activated integrated system takes all the components usually found on a cruiser dashboard and puts them to the trunk, Mykyte said.

The equipment responds to voice commands and officers can also use a touch screen to activate controls.

Mykyte, a seven-year member of the force, said what he likes most is that all cruisers will eventually be standardized.

At present, the operating systems in cruisers vary slightly depending on the year the vehicle was purchased.

Sgt. Bob Bell, in charge of the city traffic section, said it would cost about $15,000 per vehicle to install the equipment.

Bell said it’s hoped eventually that all new cruisers will come equipped with the technology.

Mykyte said in addition to standardizing vehicles, the technology makes it easier for officers to concentrate on their driving instead of taking their eyes off the road to grab microphones and switches to activate equipment.

“It allows you to keep both hands on the wheel and concentrate on road.

“It also makes it safer for the people in the front seat,” Mykyte said. He said fewer components mounted or attached to the dash creates less of a hazard in a crash.

“You have to remember that in a crash, those components are still moving and going somewhere and it’s usually at you.”

Mykyte also likes that the inboard computer keyboard can be detached and used on the driver’s lap. That prevents the twisting and turning to reach fixed keyboards located in the centre of the vehicle in older models.

Mykyte said if the vehicle was stolen, the culprit couldn’t operate it because passwords and a key system are needed.

He also said if there’s radio chatter, it will need to be turned down so the computer only responds to stern commands from the cruiser operator.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com