AUSTIN -- A handful of new Austin police vehicles are zooming down city streets.
The department is phasing out its old cars for new, more fuel-efficient SUVs. The fleet of 66 vehicles will eventually replace the Crown Victoria models Austin officers currently use.
The 2013 Ford Explorer Utility Interceptors have plenty of room for two cameras that can activate automatically, sensors that can detect an impact in a crash and an officer's computer. All of the technology will be carried over from the current patrol cars, so the bells and whistles won't cost taxpayers a dime.
The cars have high intensity strobe lights to make it safer for officers to go through intersections if necessary. It also has the ability to provide more off-road performance, and more protection for officers in terms of surveillance.
Every time you open the back door of the vehicle to transport a passenger, the camera will turn on. There's a total of five automatic sensors in the car, one of the upgrades from the older models.
"As far as safety goes, the officer's gonna sit up a lot higher, the vehicle's a lot bigger, so if it is involved in a crash, the officer should be more protected," said Officer Marcus Davis. "It also has front, side and side curtain air bags, where as the Crown Vic had front and side only."
These SUV-style vehicles are also bigger, allowing more room for equipment, evidence, K-9 units and passengers. They are pursuit-rated, which means they can travel as fast as the current cruisers.
Each vehicle comes at a cost of $31,000. Austin police estimate all 66 cars will be out in the field by the end of October.