More than 2000 Volkswagen patrol cars have earned their stripes with police agencies across Australia. Now there is a plan to future-proof the fleet with a hi-tech upgrade to the infotainment system that eliminates the need for bulky data terminals, and integrates core functions.
Volkswagen Australia has joined forces with a technology provider to offer in-car upgrades to future police vehicles that eliminate the need for bulky data terminals and brackets – and integrates core electronic functions into the vehicle’s infotainment system.
The Australian police fleet market – dominated by Ford and Holden for decades until the demise of local car manufacturing in 2017 – has become a field day for importers trying to win a slice of the business.
For the past five years there has not been a uniform approach to the replacements for the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore patrol cars, with most states and territories heading in different directions.
Most police agencies are still experimenting with what general duties vehicles might work best for their region, which is why police cars range from Hyundai, Toyota, and Volkswagen sedans – to Kia, Hyundai, Toyota, and Volkswagen SUVs.
The scramble for suitable vehicles has highlighted how unique are the demands placed on police patrol cars.
In addition to responsive engines they also need high-performance brakes, grippy tyres, five-star safety, as well as affordability and reliability.
Volkswagen is seeking to distance itself from the rest of the car giants pitching for police fleet business by partnering with local tech firm Lumen, which started out assembling trailer wiring harnesses and now is at the forefront of in-car integration systems.
In essence, with Volkswagen’s backing, Lumen brings core police car electronics functions into the infotainment system, eliminating the need for bulky data terminals and the brackets that locate them.
As is common practice for police cars, Lumen fits a second battery to segregate police systems and the car’s electronic demands.
However, the ace up Lumen’s sleeve is the integration of police radio and despatch functions as well as Automatic Number Plate Recognition data.
Police can still use a portable tablet – or a tablet in a bracket – for sensitive checks.
But Lumen aims to declutter the cabin, making it easier to fit and strip the vehicles before and after their life on the beat.
Another tech highlight: the Code 3 light bars have GPS locators, so that when two or more police cars are stopped nearby, the lights flash in sync.
Volkswagen and Lumen say they have been working on the in-car integration for police vehicles over the past two-and-a-half years, and say this is the first of its type in Australia that is ready to go in the real world.
While a new-generation Volkswagen Passat is expected to be about 18 months away, the company says the Lumen integration package has been “future proofed” so it can be easily adapted to the infotainment systems of next-generation models.
The demonstration vehicle – a Volkswagen Passat Alltrack – was built up at the request of some Australian police agencies that were looking for the practicality of a wagon body, but higher bumper clearance to better negotiate speed bumps or when climbing over gutters when attending incidents.