Picture it: a routine roadside stop goes sideways when the driver refuses to pull over, starting what would normally become a high-speed chase. But rather than endangering lives and chasing after at high speed, the police officer hits a button on the dash, causing a panel on the car's roof to emit a burst of energy and the fleeing car simply coasts to a stop. Sound like science fiction? Well it's not.
Or at least it won't be soon. Scientists at Eureka Aerospace have developed an electromagnetic pulse gun called the High Powered 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 fills an entire lab, but they have plans to shrink its size to hand-held proportions. There are, of course, some kinks to work out, such as how to ensure the car will still be able to stop safely--an increasingly valid concern with more widespread use of electric power steering units and the need for hydraulic brake assistance.
It's worth noting that GM already features similar capabilities on its 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.
Of course, criminals could always circumvent the HPEMS's effectiveness by opting for a pre-computing age car, though the number of affordable classics that are up to modern high-speed chase duty is surely dwindling.
Caveats aside, it's an interesting look at a still-nascent technology. Check out the video below for the quick-hit brief from Popular Science.