CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL RADIO 

2009 

 VISTEON TAC-NET RADIO SYSTEM (and successors)

As of summer 2009, The CHP is still using essentially the same GE RANGR equipment as they have been since 1989, but with some upgrades to the vehicular "extender" repeaters,  the scanners and the mobile computer and data terminal equipment.  Since 2003, it has been their goal to transition to a system using the Visteon Tacnet concept as described on this page.  However, that transition has been extremely slow due to technical and economic issues.  The CHP's new radio budget, as presented to the state legislature approximately three years ago, is available for download from  here, as a pdf document:

http://www.lao.ca.gov/LAOApp/PubDetails.aspx?id=1436

Since publication of that document, the State of California has fallen victim to the national economic crisis, and the original budget for the CHP's radio system upgrade may be in jeopardy at least as far as state originated funding.  One of the upgrades was already in progress, namely the contract for the first round of new 700 MHz portable radios to replace the VHF Motorola HT-1000 units, quantity unknown at this time.  That contract was given to E.F. Johnson.  

The history of the Visteon system is as follows:

In 2002, then-chief Gary Townsend of the CHP's Information Management Division began to investigate creation of what the CHP decided to call the CPVE, or "Consolidated Patrol Vehicle Environment," a new mobile radio system which would eliminate the traditional pile of control heads and separate microphones for multiple mobile radios, by creating a touch-screen computer display which would control everything from a single console.  The concept for this was initially suggested by Visteon, best known for in-vehicle DVD players as found in many mini-vans, but essentially unknown in the two way radio or police emergency equipment field.  Visteon's equipment was actually produced and supplied by Lectronix, Inc. of Michigan.

This was unproven technology and the CHP ordered 10 "kits" from Visteon in June, 2003, which were distributed throughout the state and met with a very high if not almost complete failure rate.  Apparently after Visteon agreed to upgrade the software and provide production and field assistance in bringing the installations up to a reliable working state, the test installations began to function properly.  By the end of 2004, 40 Visteon equipped cars were in inventory statewide, with another 56 installations on order to be installed throughout 2005.  Also planned for 2005 was the development of a prototype motorcycle installation.  To my knowledge, this did not occur.

The Visteon equipment consisted of a large touch-screen display located in the center of the dashboard, which could control up to five radios as well as the siren and emergency lighting.  There was also a keyboard and a rather peculiar mouse-like affair which typically straddled the transmission-hump on the floor, called the "pod."  Perhaps the most unusual item of all was the "heads-up display, hung from the area to the left of the rear-view mirror.  The heads-up display screen was a piece of semi-clear plastic, which was illuminated by a video monitor/projector located on the ceiling in the area of the dome light.   There was an optional hands-free microphone, located near the rear-view mirror, and the system could be voice activated.  Another "first"  was the addition of an AM/FM stereo radio, the sound of which was muted whenever a police call came through the system.  In busy areas, this would be a near constant situation.

The "pod" controlled various features of the system depending upon which button is depressed by the user; there are three buttons keyed to the three middle fingers of the user's hand.

The Visteon equipment was intended to control up to five two way radios as well as the radar and the siren/lighting.     Radio equipment in use with this system, at the moment, consists of Kenwood conventional low band mobiles, dash mount configuration, but located in the trunk and modified to interface with the Visteon equipment.  It was expected that VHF and UHF mobile radios would be added to the system. The assortment of equipment in the patrol car's trunk, at least in the test models, appeared to be gigantic, and reminiscent of the full size tube mobiles of the mid 1950's.  

Also supported was a wireless keyboard and a separate Panasonic wireless "Handheld Automated Citation Device" which looks something like a PDA, and is referred to as the "ACD."  At the end of a shift, the officer could remove a thumb-drive from the equipment and take the day's data from the ACD into the station for further processing.

The CHP initially expected to implement the Visteon equipment in their entire fleet.  At the rate this was  progressing, however, the Tacnet equipment already in service would have been antique by the time the final patrol car was converted (doing the math, 50 units per year would require 100 years to equip 5000 patrol cars!)   In the December, 2004 issue of Zenith 1-2000, the CHP's in-house magazine, there is an article about the Visteon Tacnet entitled "Look Who's Talking Too!" with additional photos of this equipment.  That article could not have foreseen the economic crisis and budget emergency which developed at the end of 2008, and essentially projected that the Visteon equipment would be installed fleet-wide "in the next few years."  Not to mention that Visteon apparently spun off the TacNet product to L3 in the meantime, which I understand canceled it.

The photos immediately below are from original 2003-2004 Visteon promotional materials, courtesy of Visteon.  The actual equipment put into service had a few differences, such as the display housing.

 

ACTUAL CHP INSTALLATION, 2003

The photos below were taken of a Los Angeles area CHP car being fitted with one of the then-new Visteon systems in 2003.  Note the differences between it and the promotional photos.

Heads-up projector:

Electronics in trunk, original 2003 Visteon installation.  Radios by Kenwood.  Trunk Shelf Slid Out.


The Visteon system was not without its critics, particularly in the media.  Added without comment is the following, quoted from the Sacramento Bee:

"Loophole seen in tech deal"

The California Highway Patrol bought more than $2.5 million in patrol car electronics from a major auto parts manufacturer that paid $8,000 to sponsor a 2004 San Diego Harbor dinner cruise at a conference the CHP co-hosted, documents show. Visteon Corporation, a car parts supplier and former affiliate of Ford Motor Co., sponsored the dinner cruise on the yacht Pacific Hornblower. 

Sacramento Bee, July 2007


SUMMER 2009 UPDATE:

As of early May, 2009, the CHP has awarded a $ 120 Million contract to Lectronix, Inc. and Rockwell Collins for the latest version of the "CVPE" control equipment, with $ 30 Million of that going to Lectronix. 

 It is not exactly clear which company is responsible for what part of the system, based on the press releases, but the price apparently includes the radio equipment.  Lectronix was the firm which produced and manufactured the controller equipment for the original Visteon system.  Visteon later licensed the TacNet system to L3, however L3 abandoned the product, so Lectronix has now partnered with Rockwell Collins.   Rockwell Collins is responsible for "system integration and management," which presumably means the software and the overall implementation, but I don't yet have exact information on that aspect.

Press releases state that it is expected that 2,663 patrol vehicles will be equipped with the CVPE equipment by July, 2010, out of a total buildout of 4500 vehicles at program completion.  Doing the math on a base of 4500 vehicles, this works out to slightly over $ 27,000 per vehicle (!), with $ 6600 of that going to Lectronix.   The vehicle will contain assorted radio drawers to interface with other agencies for interoperability, and the hand-held radio will have the capability to access these vehicle radios as well as the standard CHP low band radio package, thus being able to communicate with most other-agency 800 and 700 MHz systems (including the CHP 700 MHz systems installed at local offices and dispatch points.)

This contract was awarded before the May, 2009 election in which all California budget rescue initiatives were defeated.  It is not known whether the money has already been reserved for this project, but in any case, it is the author's impression that much of the expense is coming from federal grants.

I am not sure how the keyboards for two separate computers will be handled; possibly the CPVE may do everything from the touch pad, and the keyboard will only be for the CHP computer ?  If you are familiar with this, let me know.

2010 Press Release from Rockwell Collins

As of 2010, Lectronix still had a press release on their site, but as of 2013 it disappeared and I don't seem to have saved a copy.  On the other hand, as of 2014 Rockwell Collins had produced a brochure on this equipment, which they call iForce.  The links to it no longer work and I don't know why, but I saved a copy, click here:

Rockwell iForce Brochure

CHP released a report indicating that installations of this equipment were underway for the testing phase, as of June, 2009, with the actual new fleet installs scheduled to begin in 2010.  

Click here for a 13 page pdf status report by CHP as of June, 2009, with photos.

Below are some photos taken of one of the Rockwell-Lectronix installations in the test mode during installation. Note that the drawer has been slid out for access:

 

Interior  of power management box:

Photos courtesy Capt. Adam Adamant

LECTRONIX-ROCKWELL EQUIPMENT DESCRIPTION

(As of 2011)

Lectronix designs and builds the CPVE CPU unit shown in the photo, and the physical tray it mounts on. The CPVE module is capable of operating eight separate radios, but only four are supplied (in the "radio stack.")  In the present installations (2009-2010) those are:

Kenwood TK-690 (Low Band, with custom firmware to allow reprogramming via the CPVE.)

Kenwood TK-5810 (UHF)

Midland STM-1050B (VHF high band) (Made in Turkey)

Motorola XTL-2500 (700-800 MHz) -OR- Johnson 5300ES

Bearcat BC 780XLT Scanner (to be replaced by Grecom PSR-600)

The Bearcat BC-780XLT scanner is mounted under the standard Stalker radar controller, behind the radio stack and toward the middle (see photo.) Presumably the scanner will have to be replaced as other systems go to narrowband and/or digital, and the replacement appears to be the Grecom PSR-600, now being installed in the cars leaving Motor Transport with the traditional GE RANGR non-CPVE equipment. 

The Grecom scanner uses a USB port for communications with a computer.  Note: As of the end of 2012, Grecom's customer service website was announcing that the company had lost its manufacturing facility in China and that there was some doubt as to when production would resume, as the company was in a state of interruption.  It is unknown whether this will affect CHP use or purchases of this equipment.

At the time this photo was taken, the new 700 MHz  portable to car vehicular repeater unit for use with the EF Johnson portables was not installed, however Pyramid has produced the necessary P25 unit for this purpose and they are in service in some areas as of 2011.

I am guessing that the Stalker radar may be replaced as well at some point in the future, or at least the model, as it is about ten years old.

CHP has acquired a number of additional channels in low band and reportedly some in VHF high band as well,  hence the extra radios, although the current channel plan does not include VHF high band for CHP units.  The radios other than low band are inter-operability radios.

The vertical box mounted on top of the CPVE base platform at the left is a windows based computer for CHP use, used for the patrol activities, as is currently done with a laptop mounted in the dash console area in the passenger compartment. It is separate from the computer in the CPVE unit.  There are two other expansion ports on the CPVE unit - - middle and right.  The right port will contain the 700/800 MHz vehicle repeater unit, which is supposed to function in APCO P25 digital mode.  The center port remains available for future upgrades.

Basically, the touch screen has a row of "buttons" across the front. There is a semi-fixed display on the vertical 1/3 at the left.  The right side of the screen emulates the appearance of the traditional GE RANGR S-810 control head panel with some extra features, and that screen can be navigated to other functions, and is a "dynamic" screen. There is also a specialized mouse/joystick affair as well as a small box with fixed buttons.

The CPVE unit has a special ("failure ?") mode where relays drop out to bypass everything and allow direct "pass through" operation of the Kenwood TK 690 radio manually, if needed.  Note that the TK 690 is mounted upside down, on purpose!

The wireless modem is the gray box and is made by Sierra Wireless to operate on excess cellular 3G capacity similar to the way the AT&T and Verizon "air cards" are used on laptop computers.  Thus this system is still technically not a true "MDT" or a "CAD" dispatch system but it is cheaper than the state building out an entire MDT system of its own.  See my CHP 2001 radio page for a better photo of the primary Sierra unit, or check out Sierra's website for further photos and details. There are several Sierra  RF modems in use.  Newer versions have USB ports for connection to the PC.

Not shown in the photos is a duplexer and multiple filter arrangement which allows the multiple 700/800 MHz radios and cellular data interface to all operate via the same antenna.  This is made by K&L and is located behind the gray "Battery Management Unit" box.

The battery management box controls a separate 12 Volt back-up battery which is intended to run everything on its own for at least two hours.  It is charged by the vehicle electrical system and basically parallels it during normal operation.  That battery is in a gray plastic marine style housing located in the passenger side trunk well area as can barely be seen in one of the photos.  The original 2003 era TacNet design had the battery on the other side.

The system, being modular, will undoubtedly have assorted changes and upgrades to various modules during its service life.  This information is all essentially preliminary and subject to ongoing corrections and refinement.  

The emergency lighting is also being changed over, fleet-wide,  to an LED system, by Whelen, but that's beyond the scope of this page.  

HANDHELD RADIO

The new handheld radio contract has been awarded to EF Johnson.  This radio is P25 compliant and operates on a number of 700 MHz channels as well as 800 MHz capability for inter-operable systems. It replaces the old VHF 154.905 MHz Motorola HT-1000 and assorted newer portables currently in use as of early 2010.

The model 5100ES is shown below in a photo from Johnson's advertising literature.  Further information can be found by going to the E.F. Johnson website.

In the meantime, CHP is also using a number of newer Motorola VHF Handie Talkies with DTMF-pad fronts until the transition is complete.  If you have the model number of these, let me know.

MOBILE VIDEO

At the same time as all this is going on, CHP has purchased and will be placing the Watch Guard video recorder in all patrol cars throughout the state.  This system is being referred to as MVARS (Mobile Video Recording System) and will be put in place by retrofitting cars in service as well as installing the equipment on vehicles currently leaving the Motor Transport production line.  The entire process will probably take a year or more to complete.  There will be cameras pointing inside and outside the vehicle, with the usual wireless microphones worn by the officers.  The present retrofit is being done to the existing RANGR radio and S810 control head installation as has been in use since 1987, although the video equipment will be installed in the new CPVE system from the assembly line and already has provisions for it.

WINTER 2012 UPDATE

Cars coming off the production line should now all be receiving the CPVE equipment.  Rockwell Collins has named the equipment  "iForce" and has sold some variation of this theme to the Canadian RCMP.

CLICK HERE for a pdf copy of the latest Rockwell brochure on this equipment.  

 

WINTER 2013 UPDATE

CHP is now rolling out the new Ford SUV vehicles, which use a slightly different configuration of the new CPVE equipment.

CLICK HERE for a set of photos of the new Ford installations.

 

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Ver. 11/26/2014                                                                                                               Geoffrey C. Fors, 2007, all rights reserved