Ford is Making an Autonomous Police Car That Can Pursue Suspects
Of all the careers at risk of becoming automated, one wouldn't expect the police to find themselves on that list. And while they won't be completely replaced, there's a chance they could be patrolling the roads much less, leaving the cop cars to do the work all on their own.
That's the idea behind a patent filed by Ford entitled the "autonomous police car," which would be capable of not only identifying and issuing citations for a passing car that's breaking traffic laws, but then pursuing after said law breaker if the car's AI processor "decides" that such an action is necessary.
According to the patent, the police car's AI processor could do this by "remotely executing one or more actions with respect to the first vehicle," which is vague and more than a little ominous sounding. And it's not clear if the "one or more actions" refers to turning on its sirens and pursuing until the offending driver pulls over, or just snapping a photo of the driver's license plate.
Perhaps relying on other technology that doesn't quite exist yet, Ford also seems to claim their cars could wirelessly communicate with the offending driver, and let them know they've just received a ticket. When you're only given a notification from an AI made from several lines of code, it's difficult to talk your way out of said ticket.
When it comes to "autonomous police" anything, it's tough not to think about RoboCop. While nothing in the patent suggests these cars would be authorized to use lethal force, hopefully they won't give any officers a reason to say "it's only a glitch":
Of course, a patent filing is no guarantee that artificially intelligent, ticket-writing cop cars will actually start driving on the streets. But Ford does manufacture plenty of police cars, and if they finish a prototype and some police departments are interested — and most importantly, if the right self-driving car laws are passed beforehand — this could make the autonomous cop car a fancy and risky new toy in a department's arsenal.
But with so many companies working on and testing out self-driving cars, it's practically inevitable that they'll hit the streets in some form. And rather than a road full of taxis moving people from place to place, it's not impossible that they could begin showing up for other purposes like law enforcement.
RoboCop touched on fears held by a lot of us: is AI law enforcement a good idea? It could be dangerous to remove any human element from law enforcement, when AI will always be prone to glitches and misunderstandings of often complicated laws.
Even if Ford's autonomous cop cars never do anything on the level of ED-209 law enforcement droid, it could still lead to difficult scenarios for human drivers. If one of the cars writes up a faulty ticket, and a human tries to challenge that ticket, who will be believed? The person, or the car?