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FBI: Autonomous cars could be used as bombs and for other criminal activity

According to an internal FBI report, the bureau is concerned about how self-driving cars might be used by terrorists and other criminals.
July 17, 2014
google self driving car prototype

Every time a new technology emerges, it has at least a few detractors, dozens of them if we’re talking about Google Glass. That’s because new things are sometimes scary, and often carry potential security, privacy and — occasionally — even health concerns. So while many of us are dreaming about a time in the near future where autonomous cars are readily available and affordable, others are dreading the same scenario.

Case and point, an internal report from the FBI has been obtained by the Guardian, and in it are a list of possible concerns centered around the idea of self-driving cars. Unlike some of the issues we’ve seen raised by politicians, this goes beyond pedestrian safety. Instead, the FBI is worried about how such cars could be used to make the lives of criminals easier.

the FBI is worried about how such cars could be used to make the lives of criminals easier

For one thing, someone driving away from law enforcement wouldn’t need to keep an eye on the road or a hand on the wheel, and therefore they’d be able to more easily fire back at the cops or perform other illegal tasks that would be nearly impossible today. Of course, depending on how Orwellian our society gets, it might be possible for cops to lock into the car’s computers and simply shut it down in the event of a car chase (though obviously the FBI report doesn’t mention this possibility..).

Aside from how a ‘driver’ would be able to better commit crime, the FBI also is concerned that terrorists could load up a car with explosives and simply program it to drive into a target. As the report puts it self-driving cars “will make mobility more efficient, but will also open up greater possibilities for dual-use applications and ways for a car to be more of a potential lethal weapon that it is today.” On the bright side, the FBI notes that self-driving cars could also make surveillance much easier than it is today.

For what it’s worth, the FBI isn’t necessarily calling for a ban on self-driving cars, but they are analyzing how such vehicles might make it a bit harder to deal with crime and terrorism. Honestly, their concerns are probably more than valid, but this is the same case with many technologies out there (planes, for example), so here’s to hoping government officials and politicians don’t use these potential concerns to hinder technological progress.

What do you think, like the idea of autonomous cars, or do you feel that we are better off sticking to a world where folks have to get behind the wheel and drive themselves?