Ford is piloting a new heated sanitization software solution that can help neutralize the COVID-19 virus inside its Police Interceptor Utility vehicles, which helps decrease the potential spread of the virus. Photo: Ford

Ford has developed software that literally bakes the interior of police cars to kill traces of the coronavirus that other cleaning methods might have missed.

Why it matters: The self-cleaning heat treatment is an example of how vehicle manufacturers and transit providers are experimenting with sanitization methods in the COVID-19 era.

The big picture: Police officers are at risk of contracting the virus because they are often dispatched to transport COVID-19 patients when ambulances are not available. Alternatively, they could easily transport individuals who are asymptomatic. Ford, the largest supplier of police vehicles, hopes its sanitization method helps reduce the spread of the virus.

How it works: The software, available on 176,000 hybrid-electric Ford Explorers sold as Police Interceptor Utility vehicles, uses the car's own engine and climate control systems to temporarily raise the cabin temperature to 133 degrees — hotter than Death Valley on its hottest day, Ford says.

  • The temperature is maintained for 15 minutes — long enough to disinfect nooks and crannies that manual cleaning can miss — while flashing lights let officers know the process is underway.
  • Ford partnered with researchers at Ohio State University to verify its effectiveness and tested it on police vehicles in New York, California, Michigan, Massachusetts, Ohio and Florida.
  • "Our studies with Ford indicate that exposing coronaviruses to temperatures of 56 degrees Celsius, or 132.8 degrees Fahrenheit, for 15 minutes reduces the viral concentration by greater than 99 percent on interior surfaces and materials used inside Police Interceptor Utility vehicles," Jeff Jahnes and Jesse Kwiek, laboratory supervisors at Ohio State's department of microbiology, said in a statement.

The big question: Can similar methods be used to create self-cleaning transit buses, subway cars and taxis?

  • Ford says it has no plans to use the technology beyond police vehicles.

Go deeper

Updated Sep 25, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

The number of deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 980,000 worldwide on Thursday.

By the numbers: Globally, more than 32 million million people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Johns Hopkins data shows.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 32,471,119 — Total deaths: 987,593 — Total recoveries: 22,374,557Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 7,032,524 — Total deaths: 203,657 — Total recoveries: 2,727,335 — Total tests: 99,483,712Map.
  3. States: "We’re not closing anything going forward": Florida fully lifts COVID restaurant restrictions — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tests positive for coronavirus.
  4. Health: Young people accounted for 20% of cases this summer.
  5. Business: Coronavirus has made airports happier places The expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance looms.
  6. Education: Where bringing students back to school is most risky.
Sep 4, 2020 - Health

"Mask up": Governors urge caution ahead of Labor Day weekend

Beach-goers in San Clemente, California on Sept. 2 ahead of Labor Day weekend. Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Democratic and Republican governors on Friday urged residents to adhere to basic coronavirus mitigation strategies, like washing hands and wearing a mask, during the Labor Day weekend.

Why it matters: 18 states saw rising coronavirus caseloads over the last week, including seven where daily infections were up by more than 50%, per a weekly Axios tracker.