Ford Patent Could Pave Way for Self-Driving Police Vehicles

Automotive giant Ford has filed a patent for a driverless police car that uses artifical intelligence (AI) and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication to nab law-breaking drivers.

The patent application was filed in December by Ford Global Technologies, a subsidiary of Ford Motor Company, and is currently under review by the US government.

A wirelessly connected or “smart” traffic light, for example, would identify a vehicle that ran a red light and relay not only the license plate number and description of the vehicle, but also provide the driverless police car with the vehicle’s location, allowing the Robocop car to follow the car and issue a ticket.

In this instance, both vehicles are in communication with each other. For instance, if the violating vehicle is itself in self-driving mode that information will automatically be relayed to the police car, which will then respond indicating a disposition, such as a ticket or warning.

If the vehicle is under driver control, the vehicle will send the self-driving police car a photo of the operator’s driver’s license.

In addition to the vehicle’s description and location, the police car would also be able to access information about the owner, the car’s history of violations and registration information.

By automating routine police tasks, such as issuing tickets for speeding or failure to stop at a stop sign, police departments will be able to use human officers for tasks that can’t be automated.

“While autonomous vehicles can and will be programmed to obey traffic laws, a human driver can override that programming to control and operate the vehicle at any time,” according to the patent application. “When a vehicle is under the control of a human driver there is a possibility of violation of traffic laws. Thus, there will still be a need to police traffic.”

The patent application noted the technology can be adapted to a variety of network computing environments involving in-dash vehicle computers, PCs, notebooks and mobile devices.

In Dubai, child-sized self-driving police vehicles have already hit the streets, in this cased used as surveillance vehicles equipped with biometric software to scan for criminals.

While Ford and the city of Dubai are working on self-driving cop cars, Waymo — Alphabet’s autonomous vehicle project — is running tests to help make other self-driving cars respond quickly to emergency vehicles.

In collaboration with the Chandler police and fire departments in Arizona, Alphabet-owned Waymo has been conducting emergency vehicle testing with their self-driving minivans.

Waymo’s self-driving vehicles are designed to interact with law enforcement and first responders.

Using a suite of custom-built sensors, the vehicle’s software can identify a nearby fire truck or police car, detect its flashing lights, and hear sirens.

The sensors are designed to locate the direction sirens are likely coming from, improving the vehicle’s ability to respond quickly and safely.

Once an emergency vehicle is detected, the vehicle can respond by yielding, pulling over to the side of the road, or coming to a complete stop.

Tractica report, which examines the market and technology issues surrounding autonomous trucks and buses, estimates unit shipments will increase from just 343 vehicles in 2017 to 188,000 units in 2022.

Tractica cited more competition within the industry as a factor in providing significant opportunities to various industry participants, with the market reaching a value of $35 billion by the end of 2022.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.


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