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Transportation Technology

Electromagnetic Pulse Gun To Help In Police Chases 471

Posted by timothy
from the hand-your-keys-to-big-brother dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "In an attempt to put an end to dangerous, high-speed police chases, scientists at Eureka Aerospace have developed an electromagnetic pulse gun called the High Power Electromagnetic System, or HPEMS. It develops a high-intensity directed pulse of electricity designed to disable a car's microprocessor system, shutting down all of its systems. Right now the prototype seen in a video fills an entire lab, but they have plans to shrink its size to hand-held proportions. Some form of this is already featured in OnStar-equipped vehicles though the electromagnetic signal used to disable the vehicle is beamed via satellite, and doesn't cripple the in-car computer, but rather puts it into a mode that allows police to easily catch and then stop the fleeing criminal."
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Electromagnetic Pulse Gun To Help In Police Chases

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  • Microprocessor? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:25PM (#30865490)

    What if you drive a car without a microprocessor system?

  • Uh-oh... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Third Position (1725934) on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:26PM (#30865512)
    I'm not sure I like the sound of this. Consider the lesson of the taser. Now that the cops have a weapon that doesn't kill or maim, they've gotten increasingly slap-happy about using it. Cops were at least cautious about using firearms, least they have to defend themselves against using deadly force. But they're happy to pull out the taser at the drop of a hat.

    This may sound like a good idea, but I suspect the cops will be using this a lot more liberally than intended.
  • Re:I can't wait... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scubamage (727538) on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:29PM (#30865544)
    Or aeroplanes! Or scopes! Or security systems! Or police vehicles! Or traffic signals! Oh the limitless fun an aspiring criminal could have!
  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:29PM (#30865548) Homepage
    Using it on a car sounds really REALLY stupid.

    1. It will kill the car, not merely create a carefully programmed disabling like the Onstar system. Most likely this leads to a car crash and quite likely require complete replacement of all electronics.

    2. As others stated, pacemakers, watches, cellphones, laptops, etc. will also be affected.

    3. This will get into the hands of criminals. I am quite frankly they don't already have it. Here are some of the things I think people might use it on:

    ATM's If there is a 1 in 100 chance of it malfunctioning and spitting out the money, then ATM's will be hit 100 times.

    Toll machines - obvious

    Red lights (and the cameras aimed at them).

    cop cars

  • Re:Questions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:40PM (#30865634) Homepage

    > What happens when a person going 70mph suddenly loses control of their
    > vehicle?

    The run into somebody and kill them. Just like they do when being chased at high speed.

    > How accurate can that sort of gun be?

    It cannot be accurate at all, but the cops will become convinced that it is laser-like.

    > Over what sort of angle and distance is it will effective?

    The field will be blob-shaped, with slightly more range forward than back. It will only wreck cars at a fairly short range but will destroy unshielded electronic equipment (cellphones, 'Pods, laptops...) at a much greater range.

    > Is there a way to shield the car with a faraday cage to prevent this sort
    > of thing from happening? And if not, wouldn't this just mess up the police
    > cars?

    A bit of filtering and shielding will suffice, and the cop cars will get it. So will the vehicles of some criminals.

  • Re:I can't wait... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fotbr (855184) on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:40PM (#30865638) Journal

    If you kill the helicopter's radios, that is almost as good. No radios = no communications. No communications = no flying in some types of airspace. No communications = no ability to tell ground units where you are. They might have a spotlight, unless the pulse kills that too. But if you kill communications, you seriously degrade the mission capability of a police helicopter.

  • Re:OnStar not EMP (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:42PM (#30865650)

    Does that mean with an FM-broadcaster and a Captain crunch whistle, I can drive around town shutting down down peoples cars?

  • by Maxmin (921568) on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:52PM (#30865722)

    how many bystanders do you think are going to want their watches, cellphones, laptops, etc., replaced by the cops?

    Good luck with that ... and when it happens, I bid you welcome to the infamous blue wall of silence []. After NYPD cops illegally confiscated and damaged a camcorder of mine, it took nearly six months for them to acknowledge that the incident even took place! Despite having excellent video evidence, from other videographers.

  • Re:OnStar not EMP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:56PM (#30865750) Journal

    It's still dangerous, though. I'm surprised it's tolerated in a country where so many refuse to give up their guns, for fear the government will go mad with power.

    Can't give up your guns, but giving up mobility is fine?

    I wonder what'll happen when someone cracks it and starts broadcasting a signal to shut down all the GM cars?

    I'll stick with my 20 year old Toyota. As long as I stick gas in it, it continues to pur.

  • by ehrichweiss (706417) * on Friday January 22, 2010 @09:05PM (#30865844)

    Speaking as the owner of a 1983 Mercedes 300D turbo diesel, I would love to see the cop's face if they were to ever use such a thing on my car. You see, it has mechanical fuel injection and diesel doesn't rely on a spark so EMP will be useless in killing anything except my stereo. If the car is already running, you can remove the battery and have a completely dead alternator and it'll still run. I figured out a while back that in the event of a nuclear holocaust, I will be one of a handful of people with a running car... If I can get a manual transmission in it then I could even start it. Oh, and it weighs more than the cars today so the odds of running me off the road drop considerably as well...and it's built like a tank(I've been hit by 2 SUVs and have 1 spot of paint rubbed off and a dent shallower than a fingernail).

    Is this the new preferred car for gangstas?

  • Re:I can't wait... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @09:07PM (#30865864)

    I remember reading an article on something similiar years ago, and some guy built a prototype that fit into a normal suit case. It was basically a pulse equal to a decent FM station all powered in one direction. It was a very short, strong pulse that disabled at car from something like 50 feet

  • Re:I can't wait... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @09:33PM (#30866034)

    It might be possible to use a very high energy RF discharge to destroy both.

    Most "Very bright" spotlight type lights are xenon halogen, (or equivilent halogen), and are already filled with electrically excited gas. If you were to consider these bad boys as being driven elements in a power amplified antenna system, you could get them to soak in a large discharge, which would further heat the plasma inside, and cause them to rupture-- or at the very least re-radiate the EM radiation.

    Some experiments would be needed to determine if a resonant effect could be built up inside the lights, to see if they could be used to nuke the power distribution system of the helicopter directly.

    Regardless, This is a garanteed FCC violation for civilians to try. :D

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday January 22, 2010 @09:35PM (#30866046) Journal
    I would also be interested to know whether it is "stop working permanently" or "glitch and hang until power cycled" or "you'll need to pop the battery out, do some grounding voodoo, and generally futz around; but the circuitry is not permanently damaged".

    I would hope, from the perspective of safety-conscious design, that any complex electronic systems would have a watchdog system built in, so that any sneaky software bug or cosmic-rays-corrupting-the-ram incidents would only kick the system into a pathological state for a few moments before it was rebooted from ROM and back up and running. If that is in fact the case, you would pretty much need to kill the circuitry in order to stop the vehicle(I'm sure that, for particular designs, there would be clever voltage excursion attacks that could hang the system, watchdog and all, without killing it; but that is the sort of thing you do in your hacker lab, not with an EMP pulse). If you need to kill the circuitry then we are talking about some serious power and, very likely, substantial damage to any other electronics in the car, or in the vicinity. It'll probably be very popular to "accidentally" hit those annoying civilians who insist on videotaping police misconduct with such a device.

    If car engines can be taken offline with a pulse that simply glitches, rather than destroying, the electronics, that raises the unpleasant possibility that a software or hardware bug could do the same thing, or that a driver, once hit, could just toggle the ignition, assuming that there is still a physical switch somewhere in the loop, to bring the car back into a good state.
  • by easyTree (1042254) on Friday January 22, 2010 @09:48PM (#30866146)

    Would an EMP-pulse disable an airbag-release system?

  • Re:I can't wait... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by indiechild (541156) on Friday January 22, 2010 @09:51PM (#30866158)

    Criminals have no qualms about using force, why would they resort to a weapon like this? There's already effective car stoppers out there like .50 caliber rifles and medium machineguns, both of which would be easier to acquire than a weapon like this.

    Or they could just do a PIT manoeuvre or block them off to stop the target car.

  • by BitterOak (537666) on Friday January 22, 2010 @09:57PM (#30866192)

    Outlaw electromagnetic radiation and then only criminals will have EMR?

    Yep. These things will be especially popular with rapists, chasing female drivers down highways late at night.

  • by Nethead (1563) <> on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:06PM (#30866238) Homepage Journal

    I've dealt with automobile RF from the other side, getting rid of the car's emissions. Anyone that has ever tried to deal with a HF ham radio in a car knows that getting rid of EMI (Electro Magnetic Interference) can be a bitch and a half. For reference on the steps that may be needed see []

    Oh, and if you have an old Ranger pick'em'up you just as well better plan to park it if you want to hear anything besides alternator whine and spark plug noise.

    73 de w7com

  • Re:OnStar not EMP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:28PM (#30866350) Journal
    It is interesting, and unfortunate; but it fits with other observations.

    First, of course, is the fact that public understanding of technology and new developments is pretty weak. "DRM", is just barely creeping into popular consciousness, now that it is ubiquitous(every joe user has an ipod, uses DVDs, has an HDMI connection somewhere, or whatever). It isn't a huge surprise that public understanding of exactly what Onstar is capable of is pretty low. As far as I know, none of them are exactly secret(and, even if they were, doing a simple "worst case inference" from what is known would not be difficult. Cellular modem + connection to ECU = guilty of being a remote kill switch until conclusively proven innocent).

    Second, and somewhat related, is the fact that very many people, even people who concern themselves with weapons and resisting the state and so forth, don't do much thinking about things that fall outside of the scope of traditional "weapons". For instance, back in the Clinton administration, when strong crypto was considered a munition, and "Clipper" was being actively advanced, the NRA (as best I've been able to determine from publicly available stuff) didn't so much as issue a press release about the matter. That is pretty myopic. Recognisably modern crypto/cryptoanalysis has been a weapon of war since WWII, and practically contemporary digital crypto was at least filtering out by the time Vietnam rolled around. The fact that encrypted communications were a valuable weapon should have been abundantly obvious to anybody by the 90's. And it isn't like Clinton and the NRA were best buddies in any case, and yet, when the Clinton administration rolled out Clipper, the crypto equivalent of a gun that refuses to fire if any state agent is within 50 yards, they didn't even put out a quick "We support the EFF on this one" note.

    Third is the fact that potentially dangerous private-sector actions often get a pass, even if they clearly make the population more vulnerable to government power. If the feds came out and said "All vehicles from this day forth shall have remote kill switches and tracking devices, under penalty of law" a fair few people would flip their shit. Since, however, GM voluntarily installed them and there are (for the moment) cars that don't include them, any criticism will reliably be met with the slashdot-libertarian 101 "Well, you voluntarily purchased the vehicle, what could the problem possibly be?" no matter what attempts are made to make the "Yes, I realize that each individual transaction is theoretically voluntary. However, the percentage of vehicles that can be remotely tracked and shut down by the state has gone from 0 to X in just a few years, and that increase shows no sign of slowing. Doesn't that concern you?" argument.

    Fourth is the fact that Onstar is one of those things that can easily fall into the unpleasant blind spot of both stereotypical liberals and stereotypical conservatives. Stereotypically, "liberals" tend to suspect and fear the potential malfeasance of government and its agents(concern about police brutality, war crimes, state torture, due process, etc.); but they also want certain services and protections from the state(public education, gun control, etc.). "Conservatives", on the other hand, tend to suspect and fear the state(small government, anti-gun control, anti tax, etc.); but they are often very supportive of and deferential toward agents and symbols of state power("law and order", support of police, support of armed forces, see "due process" as a technicality that lets scum go free, "constitution is not a suicide pact", etc.). For the stereotypical liberal, Onstar's remote kill easily slots into a safety narrative "Prevents dangerous police chases and tragic accidents. Perhaps, in the future, it can prevent speeding!". For the stereotypical conservative, it slots into the tough on crime narrative "Track and recover stolen property, allows police to capture thieves and carjackers."
  • by shadowbearer (554144) on Friday January 22, 2010 @11:06PM (#30866542) Homepage Journal

    :-D Indeed. I met an old mechanic once about twenty years ago who used to use an AM radio to diagnose the ignition systems in the Ranger series pickups. He claimed he could tell whether it was firing correctly just by tuning to a certain band and listening. He was damned good at it, too.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @11:11PM (#30866562)

    Can't imagine it ending well when the brakes and power steering go at high speed, yet another great idea to keep innocent by standers safe.

"Silent gratitude isn't very much use to anyone." -- G. B. Stearn