LANCASTER -- Some compared it to the Batmobile. Others said, "Knight Rider."
But this car could soon patrol the streets of your town, not just those of Hollywood fiction.
It's code-named the "E7," a car designed by automotive newcomer Carbon Motors specifically for law enforcement that boasts a slew of high-tech features, including "Knight Rider"-esque voice-activated components. And yes, it talks back.
The car was on display Thursday at Soliant, a Lancaster County company that makes the "paintfilm" that covers the car in place of a normal paint job. Carbon Motors, based in Atlanta, expects to roll out the first models in 2012. Officers who saw the car Thursday might not want to wait that long.
"Everything you would need to do the job is in that car," said Lancaster County Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hilton, who took a turn sitting behind the wheel and taking in all the features.
Those could include: a built-in computer with touch-screen display, 360-degree exterior surveillance ability, video and audio surveillance of the rear passenger compartment, automatic license plate recognition (able to recognize up to 1,500 plates per minute), ability to withstand a rear crash at 75 mph, remote start capability, night vision, radiation, chemical and biological threat detectors and bullet resistance. The list goes on. Departments can have the car built to their own specs.
"It's very, very futuristic. There's no doubt about that," Hilton said. "I'd love to see a fleet of those at the sheriff's office."
For now, Carbon Motors is taking what amounts to no-obligation pre-orders from law enforcement agencies around the country. Cost hasn't been determined, but the company says the cars will be comparable in price to a traditional car upfitted for police use.
Stacy Dean Stephens, co-founder and sales development manager for the company, said the E7 will prove more durable than a typical police car because it's designed for 250,000 miles of use. Most police cars get between 75,000 and 120,000 miles, he said. The E7 also is around 40 percent more fuel efficient than most police cars. All this means departments -- and, therefore, taxpayers -- should save money in the long term, Stephens said.
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said the car is impressive, but he doubts his department will get one anytime soon. That disappointed some department members standing nearby.
"The way the economy is ... we just can't afford it," Faile said, but added that the department would take advantage of the no-obligation pre-order "just to be on the list."
For Soliant, the contribution to the E7 is "the next step in the evolution of our product," said operations director Jeffrey Bailey. The company has made their durable paintfilm for various car parts, such as doors and mirror casings, and other products since 1980. But this is the first time the film has been used to cover an entire car, Bailey said.
Soliant's paintfilm is more durable and more eco-friendly than traditional paint, Bailey said, and can be made in any shape or color.
Getting the contract on the E7 is a bright spot in otherwise tough economic times, he said.
"Starting a new program like this will really help us when the rest of the automotive industry is slow," Bailey said.
Though the roll-out of the E7 is still a few years away, Stephens said, several hundred police agencies around the country have expressed interest in the car, including some local departments. He declined to say which local departments are interested.
"We've had tremendous feedback," he said.
Stephens laughs at the E7's similarities to those Hollywood supervehicles.
"I love the comparisons," he said. "All those are fictional. Ours is real."