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On Tuesday, August 21, just one year after an initial prototype was unveiled, the University of New Hampshire's first high-tech "Car 54" police cruiser hit the road for field testing.

This UNH-State Police collaborative redesign effort is the first of its kind in the country and will ultimately change the way state police across the country do business, increasing safety and efficiency.

At the event, Senator Judd Gregg announced an additional $5.5 million for the joint UNH-NH State Police Consolidated Advanced Technologies Project, bringing the four-year total to $16 million.

The "Car 54" project is so-named because today's police cruisers operate with basically the same technology used by the cruisers in the popular 1950s television series, "Car 54, Where Are You?" Today's police cruisers are loaded with systems -- radio, siren, lights, computer, camera--each one independent of the others and each one operated by hand, using buttons and knobs on the dashboard. No information in headquarters computers is available except through a radio dispatcher.

The Car 54 Project introduces technology that integrates all these systems--and lets police officers talk to their cars. A simple command will turn on lights, start the siren, or call the dispatcher on the radio-- all without having to remove either hand from the wheel.

Car 54 also uses this integrated system to automate requests for routine information. This happens in two ways. Standard vehicle registration and driver license information is being stored in the in-vehicle computer. Information not on board is automatically retrieved by radio directly from the headquarters computer without having to use a dispatcher. Together, these advances provide officers with routine information, while freeing up the dispatchers to assist officers with emergency and specialized requests.

The car to be presented at this event will be used for initial field testing. Once it is operating smoothly, six more units will be supplied to the state police for use by officers under normal operating conditions. Eventually the New Hampshire State Police and a number of local police departments will be supplied with vehicles.

Meanwhile, UNH's Consolidated Advanced Technologies Laboratory (CATLab) will continue to work on future improvements, such as equipping individual officers with a personal device that will integrate them with their car's network, and developing an Internet-based technology enabling officers from different jurisdictions to communicate directly with each other through their dispatchers.

FOR MORE INFORMATION --UNH's Consolidated Advanced Technologies Lab (CATLab) Web site:" --Bill Lenharth, associate research professor of electrical and computer engineering: 862-4492 --Tom Miller, professor of electrical and computer engineering: 603-862-1326