DHS Testing ‘Squid’ to Halt Border-Jumping Vehicles
By Stew Magnuson and Matthew Rusling
The Department of Homeland Security is funding technology aimed at stopping drug runners and migrants from speeding through border checkpoints.
The department is testing the Safe Quick Undercarriage Immobilization Device, or SQUID, to stop rogue drivers in their tracks. The 1.5-foot-wide disc is a portable trap that can be planted in roads near border crossings. Once deployed, a mass of tentacles springs out and ensnares a vehicle’s axle, causing it to suddenly halt.
Such vehicles have in the past hit and killed U.S. border agents, said Mark Kaczmarek, DHS program manager of the border and maritime security division at the science and technology directorate.
Stopping vehicles is fraught with danger. Authorities can fire at a fugitive’s tires, but hostages or children in the car could be harmed. Barriers or spikes can cause runaway drivers to swerve into other vehicles.
While existing elastic traps can halt a compact car, they can’t stop a sport utility vehicle, DHS noted in a statement. The SQUID, however, employs straps made of Kevlar, the same material used in bullet-proof vests, Kaczmarek said.
The project is the brainchild of Engineering Science Analysis Corporation of Tempe, Ariz. “SQUID was inspired by a sea creature and a superhero,” said ESA President Martín Martínez in a statement. Indeed, with its many tentacles, the deployed device resembles the sea creature.
State and local police agencies along with Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are interested in using the technology, Kaczmarek said.
One downside is that a border agent must be present to trigger the device. But if that officer is injured or killed, a suspect could escape. The SQUID could be configured to initiate automatically, although DHS would have to invent a mechanism for this, Kaczmarek said.
For now, the prototype is still undergoing testing. Last summer, it halted a pickup truck driving at 35 mph. But researchers are aiming to stop a 5,000-pound vehicle — such as a Ford F-150 — speeding at 120 mph. They are also working toward making the device lighter than its current 20 pounds and cheaper than its $1,000 price tag, Kaczmarek said.