Is Law Enforcement Ready for Self-Driving Cars?



Over a decade or less, tens of thousands of self-driving cars may be zooming in American highways, although law enforcement is still a ways from addressing the security and offender issues posed by sharing the road with traditional vehicles, warns a panel convened by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

The panel, comprising researchers from the RAND Corporation and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), in addition to selected authorities, industry and traffic security officers, recently recognized 33 challenges–including 17 “high-priority” ones–which have to be addressed before vehicles controlled by Artificial Intelligence create what it called a “radically shifted truth ” to law enforcement.

“The autonomous vehicle revolution will reevaluate the ways that people and goods are transferred, cities and roads are planned, and transportation tools are preserved and deployed,” the panel announced.

“The issue is how soon — not if — driverless vehicles eventually become common sights in drives and rear-view mirrors. ”

Saying that law enforcement is being made to play “catch-up” using the fast-paced technologies developed by companies competing to control the coming driverless-car marketplace, the panel said the “challenges of crime-stopping, traffic control, public security, and cybersecurity on the road can only increase as more human motorists give way into algorithms. ”

The challenges listed by the panel include developing methods to ease communication using a “responsible human being” who could be restraining the car remotely during a traffic stop or emergency, to intercepting autonomous cars smuggling drugs or people.

Others include:

Developing standards for assessing documentation of cars on the road whenever there are no people to exhibit a motorist ’s registration or license.
Developing a way to prevent and protected autonomous cars which are behaving erratically and endanger other cars or individual motorists;
Providing ways for a traffic police officer to speak with the artificial intelligence methods driving the automobile and
Developing shared protocols involving law enforcement and the artificial intelligence engineers driving this new part of the automotive industry on approaches to ensure traffic safety and adherence to guidelines of the road.

In the event the potential security problems presented by driverless cars sharing the street with traditional vehicles aren’t dealt, there may be a very long trail of trouble ahead for the authorities, the panel stated.

“As the technology rapidly advances in coming years, law enforcement agencies must hasten their preparation for a radically shifted truth on the streets,” the panel concluded.


Cockpit of a Tesla self-driving Vehicle.  Courtesy Tesla website.

The race to develop along with mass-produce driverless cars, led by companies such as Tesla, Uber, Lyft and Google (now under Waymo), currently looks to be an obstacle course.

“This is one of the largest technical challenges of our creation,” Dave Ferguson, an early scientist using Google’s self-driving car team, acknowledged in a recent New York Times interview.

When Tesla came out of its self-driving car, which was a simpler design intended for highway driving, several crashes occurred.

An injury at September 2020 between an Uber vehicle led to the death of an accident, the first such fatality between a driverless car. An examination driver monitoring the automobile ’s advancement was charged in the episode.

The companies insist the first rollout of those cars are going to be limited and cautious.

“[They] are going to be able to operate on a restricted set of streets below a restricted group of weather conditions at particular speeds,” stated Jody Kelman, an executive at Lyft.

“We shall very safely be able to deploy these cars. ”

However, before these cars can make it out of the driveway, not just do engineers need to increase their product, but also law enforcement needs to buckle up for the ride.

The panel explored how particular situations, including traffic ceases, accidents and emergency stops, could be managed in a autonomous car setting.

Noting that tests have proven a higher danger of crashes, the committee stated police investigations will focus on automobile ’s mechanisms as opposed to the flaws or mistakes of a motorist, and thus require greater understanding of the cutting-edge electronics required.

Law authorities will also need to take under consideration how offense might evolve, as offenders could take advantage of the new technology and use autonomous cars to transport drugs or traffic individuals.

The situations addressed by the panel read like the plots for a sci-fi film:

A hacker from a hostile program is prepared to electronically commandeer a autonomous armored car full of gold bars bound for a Federal Reserve Bank.  What’s how to prevent him?
A autonomous bus rolls up to a patrol officer who is motioning to divert traffic to downed power lines?  How can a driverless bus honor?

The full record can be obtained here.

Gabriela Felitto is a TCR Justice Reporting intern.

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