It’s a classic problem with every new and disruptive technology: it brings with it the possibility of evil.
A new unclassified, but restricted, report obtained by The Guardian newspaper under a public records request says that the FBI is worried that self-driving cars could be used as lethal weapons.
In the report, the FBI states, autonomous cars “will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car.”
Imagine it. A criminal could program a getaway car with a destination and then shoot at police in pursuit. Or a terrorist could pack explosives into a car and then drive it by remote to a destination, where it would go off. No need for a suicide bomber.
Self-driving cars are packed with technology designed to obey traffic lights and speed limits. But those systems could be hacked, overridden.
On the other side of the coin, tailing a suspect will be easier. The FBI writes: “Surveillance will be made more effective and easier, with less of a chance that a patrol car will lose sight of a target vehicle.”
A car can be programmed to maintain a safe distance as well, to avoid detection.
At the moment, Google’s self-driving vehicles have a maximum speed of just 25 mph. Get-away cars they are not. But the report is meant to see beyond the immediate future and assess the potential problems. There are no wrong questions.
Caption: Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Environment Melanie Schultz van Haegen tests a self-driving car.
Credit: MARCEL ANTONISSE/AFP/Getty Images