Police cars are effectively a mobile office for 12-hour shifts. And with many departments runnings two officers to a squad car, comfort and an efficient use of space is really important.
They’re also pretty cramped places to be. Aside from the belts that carry guns and tasers and handcuffs, cops need quick access their in-car radio, buttons for sirens and flashing lights, and, crucially these days, a laptop to get secure information about dispatched calls, criminal records, maps, and more.
The new 2016 Dodge Charger Pursuit—Dodge’s cop car offering, with upgraded suspension, cooling and brakes, along with some other stuff specially designed for law enforcement—does away with that laptop. Instead, it’s packed with a huge, Tesla-esque 12.1-inch screen in the center dash that works as a PC monitor for department computers that are installed elsewhere in the car.
Tesla Motors installs an iPad-like 17-inch screen in the dashboard of the all-electric Model S, replacing nearly every button in the car. Dodge is doing something similar, only it’s getting rid of most of the laptop, replacing it with a huge in-dash computer screen. In addition to being a clever use of space, it could also be a lifesaver.
See, all the stuff in cop cars really gets in the way of officer comfort and safety. The standard way of installing the laptop, with brackets and displays and keyboards, partially blocks the passenger side airbag, leaving police more vulnerable in crashes.
The new set flips between standard controls—air conditions, radio, and the like—and working as a 1024×768 display for a PC that’s been moved out of the cabin. The screen can be used while wearing gloves, and there are a number of other redundant vehicle controls to adjust car systems without ever leaving PC mode.
“It looks more comfortable and less cramped. For a profession where you’re in the car for 12-plus hours per shift, that would mean less physical stress on the officer,” says Stan Buckowich, a former police officer living in Florida. “Sitting sideways [around the laptop] for that long with a gun belt and body armor, it really tears up your body.”
Selling cars to police departments is a big business, and Dodge has about 43 percent of the US market right now. If beat cops and the higher ups end up liking life with a touchscreen over the laptop, Dodge could push that market share even higher.