Car Chases May Be A Thing Of The Past Thanks To New SQUID Technology
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
In 2010, Martin Martinez and the Engineering Science Corporation (ESC) began showing off the first iteration of a product meant to help law enforcement safely and quickly stop a fleeing vehicle, particularly at border crossings. It was called SQUID — Safe, Quick, Undercarriage Immobilization Device — and worked better than the traditional spike strip by stopping the spinning drives of a car, like the axel, rather than stopping only the tires.
With a little funding from the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, Martinez and his engineers have essentially split SQUID into two new animal-themed products; The Pit-BUL and NightHawk. Born at the border, these two vehicle-stopping tools can stop cars as large as an SUV. And now, these devices are being made commercially available to anyone who may want one.
“The law enforcement community told us it had to be lighter and smaller,” said Martinez in a statement. The beauty of each of these devices is their ability to hide and wait in common traffic elements until needed. Once remotely triggered by law enforcement, they leap to action, safely stopping a fleeing vehicle and saving law enforcement the added danger of running into traffic to deploy these measures.
Building from the basic concept of SQUID, Pit-BUL (or Pit-Ballistic Undercarriage Lanyard) works by firing material at the undercarriage of a passing car to bring it to a stop. Like a common spike strip, Pit-BUL is decked with a long row of tiny spears. Unlike a spike strip, these points are also attached to a sheet of rope webbing. As the fleeing car passes over this strip, the spikes are triggered, embedding themselves into the rubber of the tire. The spinning tires then pull the rope webbing onto themselves until the car becomes immobilized. The Pit-BUL rests easily inside a common speed bump and can be set up to cover single or double lane roadways.
Mark Kaczmarek, SQUID program manager, says the greatest benefit of the Pit-BUL is its ability to be activated remotely.
“If a driver blows through a checkpoint, the agent can press a button and the car´s tires are spiked and netted in milliseconds,” said Kaczmarek.
“No high-speed pursuit is needed, and no one´s life is put at risk.” Pit-BUL can also be remotely armed by a motion sensor. For instance, a Pit-BUL can remain dormant in a speed bump outside of a warehouse. If a driver crashes through the warehouse gate, this can trigger the Pit-BUL to catch the driver before a security guard has a chance to arm the device.
NightHawk borrows the SQUID´s remote launching technology, shooting a fully loaded spike strip into oncoming traffic in under two-seconds. NightHawk automatically detects when a car has passed across and retracts itself out of traffic´s way once its job is complete. NightHawk can also rest dormant in a common traffic barrier until remotely triggered by law enforcement officials.
Dan Gerstein, the Deputy Under Secretary at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, says these devices will be a great help to those police departments with a No Pursuit policy. “Criminals are caught and police don´t have to give chase. These first generation devices are the start of a change in the decades old game of cat and mouse.”