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article imageDriver-less cars could be a criminal's dream

By Joe Duarte     Jul 21, 2014 in Technology
Washington - With all the talk about automated driving making roads safer, due to lessening the chances of human errors, many are overlooking the possibility that automated cars could also make our roads more dangerous, due to criminal activity.
A recent U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report, obtained by the British newspaper The Guardian through a public records request, acknowledges that hands-free car control will in many cases make roads safer because computer controls compensate for distracted or impaired driving, and can react faster in emergency situations than human interaction can.
The technology could also allow first responders to attend a crash scene more quickly, by automatically having other road users make way for emergency vehicles, eliminate high-speed chases because law enforcement agencies can adjust the distance to the surveillance vehicle in order to avoid detection, and also tap into a car’s electronic controls and force it to slow or even stop.
That same technology, though, can be hacked into by the criminal element to take control of a vehicle, to aid in vehicle theft or just to cause havoc on the roads. Factor in the increased communication between vehicles and their surroundings (such as road infrastructure or interaction with other vehicles or with pedestrians), and the roads could become a terrorist’s playground.
The unclassified report states automated driving would “make mobility more efficient, but will also open up greater possibilities for ... a car to be more of a potential lethal weapon.”
Although several manufacturers are working on automated driving projects that will allow the car to control itself in certain situations without driver intervention, Google is working on a completely automatic car without “a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal… because they don’t need them. Our software and sensors do all the work.”
That, warns the FBI, could potentially lead to criminals could override built-in safety features to ignore traffic lights and safety systems, claims The Guardian. Or, they may be used by suicide bombers who no longer have to commit suicide in order to deploy their vehicle bombs. Or, they could facilitate drive-by shootings without the need for both a driver and a shooter.
Granted those are both extreme scenarios of malevolence, but the report raises the possibility that it could happen and is making the FBI (specifically the Strategic Issues Group) pay close attention to the technology’s development and implementation.
More about automated driving, driverless cars, FBI
 
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