Pulse weapon brings cars to a halt

A British company has demonstrated a prototype device capable of stopping cars and other vehicles using a blast of electromagnetic waves.

The RF Safe-Stop uses radio frequency pulses to “confuse” a vehicle’s electronic systems, cutting its engine.

E2V is one of several companies trying to bring such a product to market.

It said it believed the primary use would be as a non-lethal weapon for the military to defend sensitive locations from vehicles refusing to stop.

There has also been police interest.

The BBC was given a demonstration of the device at Throckmorton Airfield, in Worcestershire.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt, of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), who has evaluated the tech, said the machine had “potential, but it’s very early days yet”.

Radio pulse

At one end of a disused runway, E2V assembled a varied collection of second-hand cars and motorbikes in order to test the prototype against a range of vehicles.

In demonstrations seen by the BBC a car drove towards the device at about 15mph (24km/h).

As the vehicle entered the range of the RF Safe-stop, its dashboard warning lights and dials behaved erratically, the engine stopped and the car rolled gently to a halt. Digital audio and video recording devices in the vehicle were also affected.

“It’s a small radar transmitter,” said Andy Wood, product manager for the machine.

“The RF [radio frequency] is pulsed from the unit just as it would be in radar, it couples into the wiring in the car and that disrupts and confuses the electronics in the car causing the engine to stall.”

He did not provide other specifics. However, the Engineer magazine has reported the device uses L- and S-band radio frequencies, and works at a range of up to 50m (164ft).

Some experts the BBC has spoken with suggested that turning off the engine in this manner would not stop vehicles rapidly enough. Others worried about what effect it might have on a car’s electronic brake and steering systems.

But E2V said the risks were lower than with alternative systems.

Acpo suggested the machine’s ability to stop motorbikes “safely” could prove particularly useful.

Mr Holt noted that the tyre deflation devices used by some police forces posed the risk of causing “serious injury” if used against two-wheelers.

E2V added that its device could also be effective against other types of vehicles, including boats.

But because the device works on electronic systems, he acknowledged that it would not work on all older vehicles.

“Certainly if you took a 1960s Land Rover, there’s a good chance you’re not going to stop it,” Mr Wood said.

The firm added that it did not believe the RF Safe-Stop posed any risk to people using a pacemaker.

One thought on “Pulse weapon brings cars to a halt

  1. LOL, I’ve read about this before. The military have been looking into it for years. My understanding is that if used in high enough ‘dose’ the vehicles electronics will be permanently damaged and will need replacing so it is an effective way of stopping a vehicle but that vehicle will then have to be towed/recovered.

    As mentioned, it is highly unlikely to work on either of our old Land Rovers. (1960 & 1985 Series) as they have old diesel engines with absolutely no electronics and in fact no electrics in any critical area. The engines can be started on a starting handle and will run without any working electrics or battery as even the fuel pump is engine driven not electrical – bring it on Police 🙂

    My concern is this technology getting into the wrong hands, eg terrorists, think of how easy it could be to bring down a plane, hijack a prominent public figure in something like a range rover etc, etc. Even getting into the hands of some drunken youths would be bad enough as this electromagnetic ‘gun’ could be used to damage or destroy other peoples very expensive property and it could be done invisibly and almost undetectable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.