July 18, 2014
FBI Report Highlights Potential Dangers, Benefits Of Driverless Vehicles
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Like many others, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believes that driverless cars could be a “game changing” addition to the automotive industry. In an unclassified but restricted report obtained by The Guardian on Wednesday reveals they also believe that autonomous vehicles could be used as “lethal weapons.”
According to Guardian reporter Mark Harris, files obtained by the UK newspaper under a public records request revealed the law enforcement agency predicts that Google’s prototype driverless car and other vehicles like it could ultimately “have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car.”
In the documents, the FBI pointed out that autonomous vehicles could drastically change high-speed pursuit in a few short years, and also noted that the criminal element could take advantage of not having to drive to perform tasks requiring them to take their eyes off of the road or use both hands. In fact, the agency warns that suspects could use the self-driving capabilities to shoot at law enforcement officials during a getaway chase.
“There’s also the concern that cars could be used as bombs--loaded up with explosives and sent off on their own. Or, that someone could hack a target’s car, tampering with the systems and killing or injuring them. After all, everything can be hacked,” said Mary Beth Griggs of Smithsonian.com. “Of course, the FBI are paid to worry about these kinds of things. Just because they are worried about it doesn’t mean it will happen.”
The report, which was prepared by the FBI’s Strategic Issues Group, went on to note the agency believes that driverless cars could make surveillance “more effective and easier, with less of a chance that a patrol car will lose sight of a target vehicle,” according to VentureBeat’s Harrison Weber. They also suggest that the vehicles could significantly reduce the distractions responsible for many traffic accidents.
According to BBC News, the autonomous nature of the vehicles will also benefit first responders as they attempt to reach accident scenes, fires or other incidents. In addition to the reduction of collision-related issues stemming from manual operation, the FBI said that driverless cars would optimize the evasive maneuvers required to allow ambulances, police cars and fire trucks to pass.
The report was definitely prepared with an eye towards the future, as reports indicate that Google’s driverless vehicles are still being tested and are unlikely to be approved for use in the US for another five-to-seven-years – though Griggs noted that do-it-yourself kits designed to make cars semi-autonomous will be available sooner than that, and other companies are also developing similar vehicles which could theoretically come out sooner.
While the BBC said that the FBI’s predictions “go against the message that firms who are developing the technology have tried to put out,” the fact that it will be a while before fully automated cars will hit the road should quell any anxieties you might have. But “if you really need some additional worries when you’re on the road,” Griggs said, “you can think about how many computers in your car are already ripe for hacking.”