While Google, Nissan, Toyota and others are pushing hard towards making vehicles less reliant on the people inside them, as with many burgeoning new technologies, there are some who believe such drastic changes are fraught with danger.
According to a report in the Guardian, the FBI commissioned an internal study into the potential risks driverless vehicles pose, although focusing less about things like infrastructure and personal accountability and more about how they could be used by criminals. The largest concerns revolve around autonomous cars being used as “lethal weapons” and allowing “bad actors … to conduct tasks that require use of both hands or taking one’s eyes off the road which would be impossible today.” Whether that be shooting at pursuing law enforcement or terrorists turning the vehicle into a bomb that could get itself into position with no human assistance, the FBI sees plenty of scenarios where loss of life could be expected.
However, the report does reflect the potential positives, including the limited speeds and range of these vehicles, along with their inherent need to be interconnected with other vehicles around them as ways to more easily track and capture those criminals. That means lower requirements for keeping fleeing vehicles in sight, and being able to direct first-response units using indirect routes, which would help in choosing safer, less-public locations for take-down teams.
Focusing again on safety, the FBI figures self-driving cars will also help prevent collisions with police, fire and ambulances, which the Guardian says kills around 80 people yearly in the U.S.
Finally, the study estimates that Congress will approve driverless cars for public use in the next five to seven years.