back to article Car-stopping electropulse cannon to demo 'next month'

An old friend familiar to every tech buff and sci-fi fan - namely, the circuitry-addling electropulse blaster - has moved a large step closer to reality, according to reports. A vehicle mounted pulse weapon capable of stopping a (modern) car at 200m is to be demonstrated "next month", apparently. Flight International has the …

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  1. Thomas 18
    Grenade

    pacemaker

    Hope the occupants don't have a pacemaker or are called Steve Mann.

    Also, lets hope it doesn't scramble the ABS or turbo controls and leave the engine intact.

  2. Lionel Baden
    FAIL

    problem found

    Automated control on british roads if you havnt paid you car tax.

    My 2cv will survive !!! (probably not the .50 cal though !!!!!!)

  3. Mark Eaton-Park

    eh EMP?

    I thought EMP stood for Electro Magnetic Pulse, where this microwave thingy come from?

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Tom_

      Microwaves and EMP

      What are microwaves if not electromagnetic?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Age before beauty

      Your 2CV is old enough to be tax exempt surely?

      If not, you will be given an exemption for having such a rubbish motor...

    3. TimeMaster T
      FAIL

      Dead on

      this tech will only work on car engines that rely on continuous electronic control of the ignition. Diesel engines don't need any kind of spark/ignition control to operate. Hit a diesel truck with an EMP and you kill the ABS, radio, GPS, airbags, driver's cell phone, etc. but the engine will just keep going as long as it has fuel.

      This is an expensive, effectively useless "Star Wars" type toy. Military electronics are hardened to survive EMPs from nukes so this is worthless against that kind of target and once word of its limitations gets out older cars, diesels and surplus military vehicles will become the choice of criminals/terrorists everywhere.

      Cheaper to just go with a .50cal, even a shot gun with a good AP sabot round, and a little training where to put the bullet.

  5. Desk Jockey
    Terminator

    Different requirement?

    Surely the Air Force requirement is completely different? The Marines want non-lethal force, the USAF probably do want to disable everything within a given a target area. A fast moving jet operating this thing on continous fire could presumably disable a large swathe of tanks, communication and fire systems in the enemy formation in a conventional war.

    However, as you say a solution in need of a problem. Taking down suicide commanded passenger jets perhaps..?

  6. Fractured Cell
    Stop

    Tell them to come back...

    When they have found a way to mount them on the heads of my existing fleet of currently laser-equipped mutant sharks.

    Til then, No sale.

  7. Andrew Culpeck
    Thumb Down

    Pace makers and powerd stearing

    If you zap electrinics indiscriminatly you could still kill the occupants if they are say fitted with a pace maker and this could render the device unusaable perticuly if the the person with a pace maker is also a hostage.

    Then there is the problem of happens to a modern car when the electrics shut down. Loss of stearing brakes etc. could be as bad shooting the engin in terms of risk to the occupants.

    I also suspect that shooting the engin of a moving car while moving your self is more of an art than a science.

  8. Paul 4

    .50 slug

    also dosen't dissable all the other things in the car that need electroincs now, like brakes and steering.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    So...

    What are the odds of zapping the vehicle it's mounted on?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    modern car

    presumably this means it affects the computerised engine management systems. Looks like if you're a terrorist you'll just have to put up with driving an old banger.

  11. Squits

    Why cars?

    Balls to using it on cars, equip it to a stealth bomber and fire it at cities.

    Equip it to fighter jets and fire it at other jets.

    How effective is EMP shielding? Could you fire this at a nuke silo or an actual nuke and kill it dead? What happens if it's fired at a nuclear power plant?

    Many questions!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh yeah??

      You wanna try power steering and power assisted brakes when there is no power?!

      Ok the brakes usually work on a vacuum, so will have a bit left, but if the engine isn't running anymore the steering is going to be nigh on impossible to turn all of a sudden.

      People in older Citroens will be completely doomed though, no hydraulic pressure equals no brakes, no suspension no steering. Then again with an old Citroen like that you might as well just follow it for a while, it'll break down on it's own.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hmmm...

      Looks like the value of my old mechanical injector diesel car just increased...

    3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Therefore...

      i) Police arrest anyone in an old banger, on suspicion of being a terrorist

      ii) Car manufacturers profit from sales to people wanting to avoid being arrested for terrorism

      Yep... the black heli's are for me.

  12. Chris Green
    Thumb Up

    Possible Use: Speed Camera Target Practice?

    Hopefully, something created through taxation that can actually remove taxation devices.

  13. Daniel Owen

    Safely Stop a Vehicle...

    with a 50 cal shell!

    Seems a little unsafe to me,

    Plus not all police cars could stop a speeding car by calling in a police helicopter with a trained sniper and a 50 cal rifle

  14. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Another application?

    I'd say - try putting it on fighter planes as a dog-fight weapon (after making it a bit more powerful and the antenna a bit smaller).

    As a radiation weapon it will need no deflection and the antenna can be gimballed and aimed independently of the carrier plane attitude. And most modern airplanes -potential targets- have plenty of friable avionics to cook with microwaves.

  15. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Up

    I want one

    For use against over-loud iPods.....

    "Could you turn that down a bit, please"

    "<finger>F**k off</finger>"

    Bzzzzzzt, pffft.

    The problem would be how to target iTards without buggering the train.

    1. Big Al
      Megaphone

      @Eponymous Cowherd

      "The problem would be how to target iTards without buggering the train"

      Well that's why you'd be happy with a much reduced range, clearly - even the cited 15m would be overdoing it.

      A pocket-sized 3-5m range job would do the trick!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Megaphone

      RE: I want one

      My car is in the local garage at the moment; an old Beetle and thus possibly immune from this :)

      I've been having to catch the bus of late and I was thinking of EMP whilst being forced to listen to some shit rave type shit from the passenger sitting behind me on the bus; I wondered if you could make a largish electro-magnet and fire a fast/slow/possibly alternating frequency though the magnet to affect hard drives, etc within say a 10 meter range; I'm guessing it would work if you could get the frequency right and if the magnet was strong enough to affect the device?

      I can remember a few years ago seeing what happens to harddrives when opering them within two opposing electric fields.

      On the plus side we could use it on annoying users at work too.

    3. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
      Thumb Up

      I'm for one that will

      ... induce a current with enough power to fry the anti-social f*ckers face.

  16. MinionZero
    Happy

    After all, what could go wrong?!...

    I just hope the police don't get it and then try to stop a car they are chasing, whilst driving past my house. Otherwise my computer may suddenly suffeeeeWH24F#FGF!@gJVOssssfffffffzzzzzzz....

  17. Stan 2

    thermionic emission....

    ...valves. Most of the worlds major armies have had all their radar and coms equipment backed up with valve equipment ever since they banged some atoms together in the US and made a bloody great bang. Are they going to start doing the same with engine management systems?

  18. Lewis Paragraph

    A 1.2m diameter antenna....

    ... would make a very good target.

  19. John Murgatroyd

    Not a chance...

    it won't stop my non-ecu diesel....nor will it effect my non-abs brakes.

    It may wipe-out my mobile phone though. Guess I'll have to wrap it in tinfoil ?

  20. lglethal Silver badge
    Coat

    A potential actual use...

    taking out IED's?

    Drive down a road spraying this to either side (ok might need a relatively narrow beam so as not to take out other drivers on the road) and as the beam runs over the IED it should do a pretty good job of taking out the internal electronic components - so no more mobile phone ring in explosion or electronic timers. Hell it would probably take out your old fashioned clock timer by disabling the battery circuit.

    Ok it probably means you dont discover the IED because you just drive straight past it without ever knowing its there but the IED is rendered useless and the potential victims just drive by.

    I guess it depends on how much time it needs to fry electronics, but if it can keep up with a moving tank, APC, patrol vehicle then youve just rendered the majority of IED's useless...

    1. Kurt Cypher
      Grenade

      RE: A potential actual use...

      On the down-side, what if the fail-safe mode for the IED is to blow up if the electronics fail due to an EMP (assuming the bad-guys can figure out how to build such a failure mode)? This would also prove problematic if the EMP gun is used on a car-bomb at a check-point.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        IEDs not carbombs

        Thats why i mentioned IED's not carbombs... Ideally you would be pointing this beam down the road 100m or so and thus if the failsafe was to explode then the explosion goes off 100m in front of you. That should be enough range to safely avoid any injuries (you definitely dont want to be travelling in front of the convoy though!).

        I dont think you could use this for check points - you would piss off every car owner coming to the checkpoint by killing their car (bomb or not!).

        About the only other use i can think of would be bomb disposal... being able to destroy a bombs wiring from 100m would make the job of a bomb disposal tech a lot safer (i imagine anyway!)...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Megaphone

          RE: IEDs not carbombs

          I think he meant if the driver was also suicide bomber possibly....

          I think the Americans method/ways to avoiding IEDs involve using busy roads; I was watching BBC late one light on News 24 and the Americans would only use busy roads and where using drone surveillance on roads to check for odd characters. They would also attempt to blow up IEDs were they thought they had been placed but I'm not sure how successful this really is though.

        2. Kurt Cypher

          Re: IEDs not carbombs

          "I dont think you could use this for check points - you would piss off every car owner coming to the checkpoint by killing their car (bomb or not!)."

          Sure you could. You don't leave it on continuously, you only fire off a pulse when you have a reasonable suspicion, like the car is headed toward the checkpoint without slowing down, ignoring all the signs saying use of deadly force is authorized. Zap the car, taking away one weapon, and have your rifles ready to take care of the occupants, assuming the EMP doesn't cause them to blow up at a distance from the checkpoint.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    i can't see this being used by coppers

    At least in the USofA you would have so many lawsuits against the coppers for killing 2-300 cars at a time and causing a massive pileup and dozens killed. Yeah, that 's the ticket. Oops, fired it toward those homes. Hope they didn't have any stereo, tv, washer, dryer, fridge, computer, tivo, etc. there.

  22. N2 Silver badge

    .50 cal

    Much better range

  23. Charles 9 Silver badge

    @Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    It was also my understanding that the electronics on modern airplanes are also more thoroughly shielded to prevent inadvertent radio interference from the outside, not just from a wide range of terrestrial sources (since an airplane nearly 10km up has a deep horizon) but also from natural phenomena. Wouldn't this require a weapon potent enough to overpower the shielding?

  24. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Also on tomorrow's World

    I'm sure that there was a demonstration on Tomorrow's World of a rocket powered sledge that would shoot out from under a police car, and give a Tazer like zap to the car in front from underneath in order to stop it. Of course, as soon as they attempted to demonstrate it on TW, it didn't work.

    The fact it was on TW means it was back when BBC made good programs, and there has probably been some progress in the last 30 years...

    Meanwhile the police use throw out mats to deflate tyres ionstead. Which is fine. (unless the policeman still has hold of the mat and the driver attempts to drive around it)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Defense?

    Could 360 degrees of coverage mounted on a tower scamble and disarm incoming missiles before impact?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US Police already got it

    I remember seeing one of these American cop car chase type progs, probably >= 5 years ago, where a police chopper stalled the suspects car underneath them using an EMP pulse.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So who pays compensation when my TV stops working?

    With the US military's track record in actually hitting targets, this is going to cause a few headaches. Imagine the chaos when they take out the entire communications infrastructure for the next UN campaign in WeNeedYourResources-istan, but at least it will cut down on the body-count from collateral damage. Instead the desert wil be littered with useless mobile phones and walkie talkies.

  28. Steven Raith
    FAIL

    brake/steering failure

    To everyone here who failed engineering 101 - your brakes and steering are power *assisted*, nothing more. They still work.

    If an EMP pulse takes out the ECU, and the engine stalls, all that happens is that your steering gets heavier, and your brakes require more effort to push.

    As for ABS, if you trigger your ABS when trying to stop, you are Doing It Wrong - you should be able to perform an emergency stop without locking up.

    That is all I have to add to this debate, as wide-field EMP blasts to disable cars are feckless - all that will happen is that attackers will use cars fed by carbs and with physical ignition systems [a mechanical distributor and fuel pump as opposed to electronic ignition] - it's a non-starter, and it always has been.

    Steven R

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    .50 slug?

    Some years ago a bunch of curious RUC guys did some maths, and worked out that the momentum of a solid shotgun slug moving very fast was about the same as that of a heavy car, moving more slowly. They wondered if using such a slug would be a more effective way to stop a car than simply shooting the driver, which tended to have political fallout.

    To test this theory (I'm told) they took an engine onto a firing range, and let fly with a suitably manufactured cartridge. The results were spectacular, and when they'd all climbed out from behind whatever they'd dived over, and reviewed the damage caused by many kilos of cast iron shrapnel from the engine block raining down around them, they decided that although it might indeed stop a car, the driver would probably end up in even worse shape than if they just shot him in the head...

    1. fred #257
      WTF?

      .50 slug?

      Momentum = mass x velocity. So if the solid slug weighed, say, 1/1000 that of a car, it would need to be doing 1000 times the speed to equal its momentum. Say, 30,000 to 60,000 mph?

      Kinetic energy, now, is proportional to velocity squared - maybe that's what they meant. The slug still wouldn't 'stop' the car, which would keep moving forward just as fast, but it would blast bits of it all over the scenery (as the gentlemen from RUC found out). Did those brave souls stand in front of the car they were blasting? I would've paid to see that!

    2. Steve Evans

      Re: brake/steering failure

      Power assisted steering is incredibly heavy on modern cars with their low profile tyres if the assistance stops. Now imagine you are fleeing from the feds at speed down a bendy road when they hit you with the zapper.

      Having an automatic gearbox (like most Americans) you have little engine braking, so think you'll bail out and run once you're out of view round the next corner. You hit the bend expecting the steering to be nice and light, and it isn't, you don't have time to grab the wheel with both hands at 6 o'clock and start manually heaving it round before the car/tree interaction occurs. Sure it still works, but even if you were expecting the new super heavy weight you can't spin it from lock to lock in anywhere near the couple of seconds you could when it was assisted.

  30. John F***ing Stepp

    Kettering system.

    Which being a pain in the ass was replaced by all this computer nonsense; a car using the old Kettering system might be stopped using a nuke.

    The Fifty in the helicopter is a nice idea but is REALLY ILLEGAL here in the states.

    (except in the movies; in the movies you can nuke a speeder.)

    I was actually thinking about building one of these EMP thingees and firing it off during the KGB styled roadblocks they did a few years back; instant car lot; low prices, fixer uppers.

  31. Ball boy

    Antenna vs. power and all that...

    There's a couple of problems making the antenna smaller:

    1. The transmitting power would have to rise - considerably. Without knowing what antena they're using for this (I'd guess a parabolic dish or perhaps a horn), it's a general rule that if you halve the antenna you have to increase the power four-fold to get the same effect over the same distance (it's all to do with ERP and antenna gain, natch.).

    2. One reason a bigger antenna is better is that they are more efficient at focusing a signal in one direction - we can probably all remember turning the TV aerial to get a decent picture, the same problem manifesting itself 'in reverse', if you like - and a smaller antenna would 'leak' more of the usable energy....this is useful if you don't really care about surrounding devices (rather than a 10 degree 'cone', we could end up with a 20 degree one - at 200 meters elevation, the practical difference could be the target AND the watchers in the chase car).

    Mind you, it'd be good fun to see them use it anywhere near populations: by dint of having a metal body, even a cheap car is far better protected from pulse attack than, say, an average laptop - and there's no way to control the reflected pulse...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Road block

    Put one at the entrance to the Green Zone.

    It might work.

  33. Graham Bartlett

    Non-electronic cars

    FWIW, you need a pretty old car to be immune to this. Any new petrol car (gasoline to our American friends) has had electronic control since the early 90s. Diesels are a bit newer to the ECU game, but even so it's been in most diesels since 2000. So for police purposes, this would be fine for stopping joyriders.

    Of course, the old-fashioned Stinger mat is pretty good at stopping joyriders already, and has a lot less risk of disabling other cars/pacemakers/expensive electronics. So the police probably aren't going to want it.

    And there is a slight problem when you go abroad (say, Afghanistan) that they *do* have lots of old cars - the venerable Toyota Land Cruiser, for example. And inducing enough voltage to stop a car which uses points is practically impossible, bcos there simply isn't anything in the engine that's sensitive to high voltage spikes. Maybe it could blow the condensor across the points, but that wouldn't stop the car. So not very useful for the military either.

    Yeah, a solution in search of a problem.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    Next terrorist threat

    "The car-stopping electropulse blaster, even if it works, would seem to fall under the heading of a solution in search of a problem".

    I can think of a "problem" which terrorist might find this an ideal solution. Too big to hide in underpants and get it on a plane so far, but give it time.

    It's a funny old world where us humans keep on inventing things which are 'dual use'. No sooner do we have them working than we have to find a way to protect ourselves from them.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Steven Raith, Steering

    Power steering just becomes harder? Yeah, on my car, when it fails, it becomes so heavy it's not possible to steer the car!

    So the technique of zapping a car, supposedly at no harm to the occupant, could in fact kill them because they can't control the vehicle.

  36. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Boffin

    A note on explosives

    Detonators, which tend to be one of the bits that are *very* difficult (and dangerous) to improvise are tested agains Electro Static Discharge. They are not meant to be set off by stray radio signals or lightning pulses IIRC.

    However a device deliberatley designed to induce large, close range currents *should* do the trick.

    The problem. Strong enough pulse to trigger the detonator from far enough away (either ahead or behind the vehicle) to avoid damage from the explosion you just caused.

    1. Steven Raith
      FAIL

      @rotacyclic

      If your steering becomes to heavy that it's impossible to steer, then something is seriously up with your car, or its moving very slowly and has very wide wheels and very high gearing. At any speed above 5mph, normal manoeuvring doesn't require *that* much effort.

      Having first driven a few cars that had no power assisted steering at low speed, I'll give you a tip - ManTheFuckUp.

      ;-)

      Steven R

      PS: I love power assisted steering - my god, parking is so much easier these days.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Agreed

        I've driven some bangers in my time, I drove a Volvo 240 with faulty power steering for about 6 months, tiny steering wheel, geared for power steering but it wasn't working. Still perfectly drivable, just learned to keep the car moving when trying to park, not 'dry steering' as everyone seems to do nowadays with PAS. (I would've fixed it but the car wasn't mine and a second hand PAS pump cost about what the car was worth!)

        Also agree with the old Citroens, lose engine and you do lose all suspension and brakes (no emergency circuit at all). It does take a few moments before the pressure dies so more than enough time to stop the car.

      2. markp 1
        Go

        Yep...

        I've had to knock the power off to coast towards petrol stations a few times in PAS cars (what can I say, I'm disorganised), and though noticably heavier than my first non-assisted jalopy, it's not exactly a massive challenge. Just requires a little more muscle force. My arms are like twigs, BTW... similarly a loss of brake servo. The wheels can still be locked (ABS tends to go as well), you just have to shove the pedal harder and further. But if you've lost all power AND managed to massage the pedal enough to lose the boost, you've only yourself to blame - it normally takes a couple of decent stabs to exhaust the leftover vacuum.

        I can see it being a problem in trucks and buses, but not cars.

        (This sort of thing is why I fear a fly-by-wire future, however - lose power, lose all control)

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    On Star?

    By the time they get this perfected every vehicle will have a mandated "On Star" type setup, for your protection of course - in case of an accident we can call help for you and little spawn in the back seat. Never mind the very big brother potential behind the curtain. Already being marketed in the states as a safety device "stopping high speed chases."

    Mines the one with the 30 year old Rx-7. No Computer, No ABS, No Airbags, No Problem....

  38. Luther Blissett

    What no one seems to have noticed

    The source is a flying publication, not a motoring one. Think: range. Think: size of blaster: Think: well think what is the real story that is lurking here? (Hint: think Daily Fail). I have an airport a mile away. Not only is the perimeter unsecured, a main road goes directly under the runway.

  39. JMB

    (untitled)

    Might be interesting to see used on speed cameras and Talivans :=)

  40. fred #257
    Paris Hilton

    Aim, fire, shoot foot

    So they've got this gadget which will kill a (modern) car at 100 yards by frying its electronics, and they're going to put it in a modern fighter plane full of sophisticated electronics which keep it flying. So the nearest thing to this gadget when it goes off is going to be....

    Or am I missing something?

    (Paris, cos she's more decorative, less expensive, and considerably more useful)

  41. Julian Bond
    Stop

    Gatsos

    Never mind cars, could we use this thing on Gatsos and other speed traps?

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Uses

    I want one.

    Would be just the thing for that person right on my ass when I can't speed up due to the car in front of me.

    Would also be nice to use on the overly aggressive cops that like to follow close at night with high-beams on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Sun roof? House brick?

      You don't have a sun-roof? If you do, just lob a house brick out... :)

  43. heystoopid
    Grenade

    So

    So , what happens if I am driving a good old fashioned diesel engined car or truck with mechanical fuel pump and fuel injectors , no emp will kill that engine .

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Badgers

    OK...

    Such a weapon will stop my (used to have it, regret getting rid of the thing) 1980 Mercedes diesel ... exactly, ummm how? Other than the radio, the only electronics on board are the diodes and regulator IC in the alternator. Control of the engine is done by mechanical linkage and vacuum. It has a mechanical fuel injection pump, no electric fuel pump at all. Other than the lights and obviously the starter, it needs no electrical power at all. On a warm day, where the glow plugs may not be needed at start-up, it can be push or pull started, or roll started down a hill with only moderate effort.

    I suppose if the Marines were to drop one of the prototype Eureka machines on it, it could do some minor damage, but I'm not entirely sure of THAT, even.

    So, bad guys should start using older Mercedes and Volvo diesels! That's the way around that "weapon." (No smarts need apply. Even the door locks and shift lever are electronically controlled...)

    Next!

    1. markp 1
      Happy

      good idea

      but don't they do that already? Every other car in afghanistan footage seems to be something like that, or the ancient japanese equivalent. Why else do you think May had one in Botswana?

      Only problem with your Merc 280D is that by the time you factor in the extra engine weight and the severe lack of rev-ability, you've got the accelerative power of an asthmatic slug ... reportedly an 850cc Seat Marbella can take it, on a good day. And consequent poor economy with the dwindling DERV supplies.

      Still, if the roads are rubbish, you'll make about as much net progress in either of those as you would a supercharged V8 Hummer. Jagshemash!

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Tomorrow's World gadget..

    hmm, I remember watching that episode.

    Now I could improve on that, by outfitting Mr R/C Drone car with:-machine vision, improved hybrid ceramic capacitor (think XREP on steroids), and a heat seeker. Locates hot engine block and fires automagically.

    Half a dozen XREP projectiles bouncing round the engine compartment are going to give the electronics a REALLY REALLY bad day and hopefully cause enough collateral damage to bring the car to a halt faster than the wrong kind of snow on E*ros*ar.

    (scuttles off to the Patent office)

    AC, because I don't want to be "detained without charge"...

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