Vehicular terrorism is on the rise, but technology under development by the U.S. Department of Defense could save lives by disabling a weaponized car before it ever reaches its target. The Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program (JNLWD) is working on a device called a Radio Frequency Vehicle Stopper to address the prevalence of vehicle-based attacks targeting civilians, Defense One reports.
To prevent this kind of violence and other kinds of vehicular attacks (an unauthorized car rushing behind a military security gate, for instance), the Pentagon's Radio Frequency Vehicle Stopper points high-powered microwaves at a vehicle, disabling its electrical components via the engine control unit and making the engine stall out. You can watch the technology in action in the Department of Defense video below.
As Defense One reports, the group is developing two versions of its technology, one with a 50-meter range small enough to fit in a truck bed and another larger version with a range of more than 100 meters designed to remain in place. The latter would particularly be useful in the kind of open public spaces that lend themselves to violent vehicular attacks in popular urban areas like markets and shopping hubs. This kind of technology is only becoming possible now due to breakthroughs in powering the concentrated beams emitted in these kind of notoriously energy-hungry weapons.
While vehicle-based attacks were once rarely observed outside of war-zones, they've occurred with increasing frequency in high-density urban areas and tourist destinations in recent years. As the attack in Toronto last week proved, the results are effortlessly deadly to unsuspecting pedestrians. It's unfortunate that such a device is necessary at all, but if they were to become readily available, these Radio Frequency Vehicle Stoppers could discourage the rising trend of vehicular attacks, protect victims when they do occur and help law enforcement obtain additional intelligence by apprehending suspects without resorting to lethal violence.