Sunday, July 21st, 2019

The Police Could be Controlling Your Self-Driving Car

Published on April 4, 2016 by   ·   No Comments

Although today’s roads aren’t filled with self-driving cars (aka autonomous vehicles: AVs), billions of dollars are being bet — by car companies from Ford F, -2.96%   to Tesla TSLA, +3.40%  , tech companies from Alphabet’s Google GOOG, +0.67% GOOGL, +0.89%    to Apple AAPL,+0.92%and the U.S. government — on the proposition that they soon will be.

If and when the bets pay off, the basic features — good and bad — of AV systems will already have been established, hence hard to change.

It is time to start thinking about the rules of the new road. Otherwise, we may end up with some analog to today’s chaos in cyberspace, which arose from decisions in the 1980s about how personal computers and the Internet would work.

One of the biggest issues will be the rules under which public infrastructures and public safety officers may be empowered to override how autonomous vehicles are controlled.

It is not hard to imagine why they might want such override power. One is for traffic control. As AVs proliferate there are many advantages to having them talk with intelligent roadways, the better to use scarce freeway space. Controls may also be imposed to leave lanes clear for emergency vehicles or crowded busses. Road conditions that are hard to detect by AV sensors, like weather-related lane closures, may also be more efficiently and fairly handled by having roadways or emergency crews redirect AVs away from problematic lanes, as well as around police, fire, and EMS activity. Overrides could be used to restrict certain vehicles from sensitive locations, like military sites.

More intrusive controls may be called for to deal with crime. For instance, high-speed chases could become a thing of the past. The vehicles of drunk/drugged individuals who insist on doing their own driving could be pulled over if their cars’ actions could be controlled from the outside. To prevent great mayhem, police may dearly want to override the use of automated vehicles by terrorists or other criminals.

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