Police firing GPS tracking 'bullets' at cars during chases

In Iowa and Florida, they have a new method of chasing suspects. The police car's grill opens up and out is projected a better method of keeping up with the vehicle they're chasing.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read
And there it goes. WPEC-TV Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Car chases are exciting, but fraught.

One slip of the wheel, one errant pedestrian, one drunken driver, and difficult consequences may follow.

Police in Iowa and Florida, however, seem to have taken the counsel of Q from the "Bond" movies.

Instead of constantly hurtling after potential madmen, they have found an entirely new method of tracking their cars.

It's called Starchase. Essentially, it's a cannon that fires "bullets" that are sticky GPS devices.

CBS 12 offered an example in real life of how it's done.

Iowa state trooper Tim Sieleman seemed rather mesmerized. He told CBS 12: "If you had told me 16 years ago that I would have had a cannon on the front of my car, I wouldn't have believed it."

Officers in St. Petersburg, Fla., also are testing the system. As ABC News reports, the operation of the compressed air gun (not too unlike the sort that fires T-shirts into the crowd at NBA games) is quite simple.

The officer in the driver's seat presses one button, the grill opens, and the gun fires the bullet.

If all goes well, the bullet, with a GPS device enclosed, sticks to the back of the car being pursued.

Once it does, the officer can slow down, because the suspect's car will be tracked along the computer screen.

One further advantage, of course, is that the suspect's car will likely feel the police have given up and hopefully slow down.

This seems so blindingly intelligent -- at least until miscreants catch on -- that there can't be a drawback.

There is one. The system costs $5,000, and each bullet sets the taxpayer back $500.

As usual, a wise accountant and a conscientious bureaucrat will huddle together to see if it's all worth it.

However, for the passerby, won't it be fun to see police car grills open up and bullets being shot out of them?