FBI report reveals autonomous car terror threat

Autonomous cars
30 Jul, 2014 2:00pm Joe Finnerty

Leaked FBI report says driverless cars could be used as weapons

A restricted FBI report has revealed fears about the use of autonomous cars as “lethal weapons” in the future. The unclassified document refers to the “game-changing” nature of driverless cars and their potential to revolutionise high-speed chases.

The FBI predicts autonomous cars – such as Google’s project which requires no human input – will have an impact on what law enforcement officers and suspects can do with a car. For example, a vehicle could be programmed to be used as a getaway while the passenger is able to deal with pursuers rather than having to concentrate on the road.

However, the FBI report, uncovered by The Guardian, also discusses some of the benefits that driverless cars could have for policing. It states: “Surveillance will be made more effective and easier, with less of a chance that a patrol car will lose sight of a target vehicle.” 

Autonomous cars could also be set to stay a certain distance behind targets to avoid detection. Google told Auto Express it was too early to announce any safety and security systems it was planning for its car, while the UK Home Office declined to comment on whether it had considered the threat of driverless cars.

Current EU legislation dictates that any autonomous cars used in the UK can only be operated with a driver present. Although that could change according to the latest government announcement on driverless cars. Volvo, which already has several driverless prototypes on the road, explained there are several safety systems which ensure drivers are in-car.

Volvo has steering wheel sensors that detect if a driver is distracted and stop the vehicle if necessary. Technicians are developing heartbeat sensors, too, so a car can bring itself to a safe stop in the event of a medical emergency.

A spokesman added: “We have systems currently in keyless cars where, if you start it and get out, the car stops.”

The Government has announced a raft of new measures to allow driverless cars to be tested on UK roads for the first time from 2015. Read the full story here...