Image: Your Car Could Become A Remote Controlled Bomb
The UK Government announced this week that driverless cars could be on the roads from as early as January next year. A fresh injection of funding and incentives has just been put out to tender, making the design and production of driverless cars more attractive than ever to UK industry. But a Guardian investigation has learned that the FBI are already preparing themselves for criminals exploiting driverless technology. A restricted report obtained by the Guardian shows that the FBI are predicting that self driving cars could be a potential tool for criminal activity and even terror attacks. So what are the dangers?
Picture the scene. You climb into your brand new driverless car, ready to hit “Go” and begin your morning commute, when the vehicle starts driving in the wrong direction. Unable to override the controls, you are helpless as the car drives to its destination, a payload of high explosives waiting to be detonated right beneath your seat! Okay, this may be a bit extreme, but top of the list of the FBI’s fears is the adaptation of driverless technology to create remote controlled bombs for use as weapons of mass destruction. The hacking and co-opting of autonomous technology is a big concern. It could be something minor, for example the car could be programmed to ignore traffic lights or pedestrian crossings. In a world of driverless cars, safety will be assumed. All it would take is one bug in the system to create carnage. One minute you are driving down the street, the next you are being used to ram raid a bank!
Image: John Dillinger and his getaway car of choice.
Another concern is the use of driverless technology to provide criminals with both hands free to carry out their evil deeds. You can imagine famous American bank robber John Dillinger smiling as he sets his 1933 Plymouth Sedan to autopilot, allowing him to concentrate all his attention on firing his tommy gun at the cops on his tail. There are other concerns. Drug and human trafficking could become automated, allowing the criminals to transport their illicit cargo risk free.
It’s not just the crooks who could benefit from driverless technology. Emergency services rushing to the scene of a crime, accident or fire could benefit from a world of driverless cars. A simple command program could make all the other cars on the road move aside, creating an obstacle free route to the emergency. Paramedics could both work on treating their casualty as the ambulance safely guides itself to the hospital. The FBI and secret services could also benefit, with driverless cars able to track and tail suspects much more easily, especially if the target is also in an automated vehicle.
Image: Google’s Driverless cars soon coming to a street near you.
The FBI believe that driverless cars will become commonplace within the next five years. Google are stepping up their investment, having pioneered the technology for a long time now, with plans to manufacture 100 of the vehicles. The massive Chinese search engine Baidu have also stated their intention to begin producing automated tech. The announcement by the UK government is just further evidence that driverless cars are on the way. It’s no longer a “what if” but a “how soon”? There is no doubt that their arrival will encounter some problems, especially when the technology is in its early stages. The benefits will soon be apparent, with disabled people able to travel easier, the arduous morning commute becoming much more relaxing, and a vast reduction in road traffic accidents as the cars avoid collisions automatically. The future is now and just like with aeroplanes, trains and the very first cars, society will adapt.
Take a look at some more from the blog on driverless cars.