Google's self-driving car, a bomb in the waiting?

Driverless cars are still very much works in progress and several years out from being a reality you in which can ride away from the dealership, but that doesn't mean the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation isn't conducting their own threat analysis on the future of automated automation. The internal report states that "Autonomy … 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."

The FBI sketches out how "bad actors" could utilize autonomous cars to free them up to do other things. Like shooting back at pursuing police. Or being packed with explosives and programmed to drive to a target and then blow up.

To be a truly effective rolling bomb or getaway vehicle, the driverless car's programming will have to be modified to break the rules.

Of course, to be a truly effective rolling bomb or getaway vehicle, the driverless car's programming will have to be modified to break the rules — be they going off the road to get closer to a target or exceeding the set speed limit to get away from the cops that surely won't be driving autonomously when in pursuit. Altering the highly complex software of an autonomous car surely won't be a straight-forward task, and we'd expect that common sense and safety regulations would likely have checks built in to deal with such modifications.

That said, the FBI does expect that autonomous vehicles will help in reducing accidents, especially those involving first responders: "The risk that distraction or poor judgement leading to collision that stems from manual operation would be substantially reduced." That's both from the first responder's own driving and the driving of others. And tying in with surveillance systems (likely airborne by the time these cars are a reality) would also assist law enforcement in tailing target vehicles.

The FBI's report concludes that we could start seeing these applications soon, and that the US Congress could approve the use of autonomous vehicles by the public in the next five to seven years. Which, if you know anything about Congress, seems widely optimistic.

How do you see autonomous vehicles impacting law enforcement?

Source: The Guardian


Reader comments

Internal FBI report sees autonomous cars as rolling bombs that obey the rules of the road


Scare tactics by the government. They'll regulate this endeavor until it's hardly worth the effort. All for your safety, of course. "Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety."

He's the same imbecile that is going to whine when he finds out his autonomous car knows exactly where he is at all times that it's operating, because it's an invasion of his privacy.

What's next?

DEA see's autonomous cars that smuggle drugs while obeying the rules of the road?

ATF see's autonomous cars as delivering Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms while following the rules of the road?

FCC see's autonomous cars driving around hacking wifi's while following the rules of the road?

the list is endless...

Human beings are the one's who can make negative or positive attributes with new technology. We can live in fear of everything and never leave our homes or go out and try to make the world a better place by helping others, the choice is yours.

Terrorism Awareness. A foreign topic to the majority of the world, but as a Marine, you don't make yourself look like a Marine while traveling. Army Soldiers wear cammies every where they go on the airplanes you have been on. Ever see ONE Marine in Cammies? The answer is no, I don't care what you think you saw, it's no. We don't do that. If you have flown 1000 times, you might have seen just one Marine in Uniform in that time. Yes, we stand out by how we walk, how we talk, how our hair looks, but we don't wear uniforms that point us out. Why? Because you become a target.

If you are the guy trying to take over a plane, who do you attack with your surprise attack? A 13 year old girl, a 90 year old man or the guy in military uniform that looks like he is going to be a challenge (or girl)? A surprise attack on a 90 year old man is just as effective after he has forgotten the first attack anyway, so don't pick him, 13 year old girls are really small still so why them. If you are a target, you will be hit! Let the Army guys be taken down and then the Marine will step out of the back in a funny hat and headphones and do the damage he can do. Our job in that situation is to not draw attention until we want our surprise attack time. So why would you let yourself be a target?

This is one facet of the idea behind terrorism awareness. No, this isn't some post 9/11 bullshit like you want to think it is. It's just common sense if you think hard enough. And, I was in before September 11, 2001 and it was common knowledge then and I was in a plane on September 11, 2001 dressed in jeans and a t-shirt... not THE planes, but a plane...

This is a possible scare tactic, yes, but still the reality of what the FBI's job is to prevent as well as respond. If the government didn't notice this as a problem, 10 years from now, it happens, and the same folks who were talking about scare tactics is the same group saying why didn't someone think of this?! Now we are vulnerable everywhere! It's grow up time and realize that the world is bigger than Anytown, USA and that there are evil folks out there that do want to do stupid things just to do them. If they don't have to lose one of them to get it done, then it's even better for them. This isn't at all a possibility that didn't cross your mind. It should have. If it didn't, the FBI isn't the problem, your world view is the problem. This is why it was an Internal memo, not a news release. How it got out, I didn't see, but it matters that they are paying attention only. Their job is to extensively pick apart both what is happening and what might happen. Proactive vs Reactive. It's simple. Not some scare tactic with no problem!

Anything could be used for evil. That being said I hope this project is a flop, it'd be a shame to lose the ability to drive your own car. I have no interest in ever suporting these type of projects.

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I wholeheartedly agree.

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I sincerely doubt that all of a sudden every car that is on the road today will be sent to the scrap yard at the same exact moment to be replaced by hundreds of millions of self-driving cars.

I also love driving and my car, but the short of it is, people are bad at driving. Such a simple concept of staying between two lines, something a child can do when coloring, is amazingly hard for some people to do. So if I had to choose between being able to drive my car and not dealing with dumb asses on the road, I am going to the ladder of the two.

The real problem is that people tend to be easily distracted, or they view driving as "so simple they don't need to pay attention". There's also the issues with people driving while tired or under the influence, but it all basically comes back to an inability to focus on the task at hand.

Why does everything have to be absolutes? The day may come when in big cities and such there are no manual drive areas. That said the total loss of areas that you can drive your own car is unlikely to occur in our lifetime, if ever. Autonomous cars will be a god send for millions of people who either don't have a car or families that have have to share a car.

Or as previously stated, some people just shouldn't be allowed to drive, they aren't capable of it and shouldn't be on the road and don't take it seriously.

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I don't get why people automatic assume owning (or not wanting to own) one. Explore the idea around public transport n car sharing and it's a sure winner. The car pick you up at your door n drop you off wherever you need; and go pick the next passenger. Why do you need to own one?

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I hope it's a huge success. Imagine, no more people paying more attention to their phone while going 90mph in the fastlane in an oversized SUV.

Thank God someone gets it. I've gotten into it with countless nerds on this site that think its a good idea because its Google's. I love Google, don't get me wrong but as an auto technician I am not enthused about this. For multiple reasons.

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Thats an interesting idea that I hadn't thought of. I assume there would also be some sort of sensor that would only allow the car to operate with someone inside of it which would slightly reduce the risk of using it as a bomb

But there is all sorts of useful things a car that can drive its self unoccupied can do, like drop you off at the airport, or you can send it to go pick up the kids from school, or go park itself after it stops you of at the door of a store, and come pick you up later, etc.

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Thats true, but there is no way (in the near future at least) that self-driving cars would be approved without easy access to manual override. I think there will be enough people afraid of fully automated cars that they would not be comfortable wihtout anyone in the cab

The interesting thing is though that the only time a google car has almost gotten into an accident was when the human did manually override the vehicle because they got scared.

You mean the accident in India? Guy driving that machine sure was dumb lol.
It wasn't the only one though - there was one minor crash (while parking I believe, but not 100% certain atm) some time before, but again caused by manual driving.

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Future gear heads will be hackers creating custom ROMS for auto-cars. No need to bore out your cylinders anymore, just install the new nightly....Also. Not to worried about these being used for rolling IEDs. A brainwashed would-be martyr is still cheaper, sadly.

I wonder if nightlies then will crash as much as much while doing routine activities. Bug Report: When tuning into FM 92.5 vehicle makes a hard left turn into oncoming traffic.

Maybe they haven't heard of the time tested, Jihadist approved method of brainwashing someone who doesn't have much going fit for them and tying their hands to the steering wheel. Besides, a Google car would stand out too much. Way too easy to spot.

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Hello...atleast a car would have to be on the road.
I'm not saying i am pro or con but Drones are already being used and they are cheaper and more maneuverable than a car would ever be.
sorry, I googled for an example and had to use the Apple Store one for sale for $300! :)
"Honey I didn;t know it was suppose to snow today? Oh wait that's just another Anthrax attack, tell the kids to come in"

The FBI is about as paranoid as the DEA is with legal marijuana, get over it! Anything can be used as a potential threat.

A state law doesn't over ride a federal law. Just because right now they are leaving it alone and turning a blind eye, doesn't mean it will be like that for ever. Get ready to go to Federal Prison, and then you get over it. It's still illegal, federally.

Isn't it funny how making alcohol illegal nationally required a constitutional amendment?

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I'm sure much like the current On-Star that has the ability to disable the vehicle (via a call from police), this would also be an option in the consumer versions of self driving cars. Sort of like Android Device manager, but for your car. Think about that when someone hijacks your ride....pull out your smartphone and hit the kill switch! They are over analyzing this. For instance, if the car is taught to obey the rules of the road it's not going to speed, whip in and out of traffic and run red lights. Why would a criminal want a vehicle that does all that on it's own? If anything given the number of badly ending high speed chases, this could actually save lives.

Ignorance is truly bliss. Unfortunately, the potential use in this FBI report is pretty accurate.

Note to self: never invite the FBI to anything fun. Bunch of Debbie Downer buzz-kills.

Opinions of this user may be biased due to being one of those Nexus people.

Yea... Honestly this would be hard to pull off. I see more benefit to negatives. People die in crashes everyday this could be minimalized. Also don't expect everyone to be forced to do this that's not plausible for a long time.

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Just give the police a way to shut down automatic driving remotely (and immediately enable manual driving, because I'd never buy a car that could simply turn into stone if the police wanted to do it).

Says the government that uses drones to kill countless people. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

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Bombs!! Everything is bombs!

Seriously, suicide bombers are cheaper and easier to acquire than an autonomous car. And a guy in a Camry draws far less attention than an empty car driving down the road...

And to the NSA guy or gal reading this due to my post having so many "trigger words", I have one thing to say: Don't drone me, bro!

"Of course, to be a truly effective rolling bomb or getaway vehicle, the driverless car's programming will have to be modified to break the rules"

Step 1. Get driverless car (already more expensive than a "regular car").
Step 2. Re-write the software. Nevermind that Google, a multi-billion dollar company employing some real actual geniuses, still hasn't perfected the software after several years and hundreds of thousands of miles. Nevermind all that. Just re-write it. Should be cheap and easy.
Step 3. Modify the car. An autonomous car has no need for anything over 100 hp, so unless you want golf course security officers to outrun you, you're gonna need to upgrade the engine, breaks, suspension...
Step 4. Go rob a convenience store. You just might recoup a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of dollars you spent doing the above steps.

Seriously FBI?

If anything. Autonomous cars would make law enforcements job easier. I however will NEVER buy an autonomous car. #1 I don't trust any computer to have my life in its hands. #2 I enjoy driving and wouldn't ever give it up.

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"The FBI sketches out how "bad actors" could utilize autonomous cars to free them up to do other things. Like shooting back at pursuing police."
I feel like I've seen this before.... in a movie or something.... There was John Wayne... and some guys in hats.... Oh yeah, it was a western, and they were on horses!

Better keep an eye out for horses too, FBI. Idiots.

The bomb car tactic won't be viable for years at least.
Suicide bombing fanatics are cheaper to use than self driving cars, and will be cheaper for years to come...
But I agree, the government must look for threats everywhere in order to be able to counter them in the future.

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A self driving car would allow a police officer to concentrate on observation on a pre-planned route. I expect such vehicles could also be controlled remotely, locking the driver in and taking them directly to jail.

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Our car detects if a person is in the seat by weight change and movement. (I'm sure it does, because it won't shut off dome lights for longer if someone's ass is in it.) I could see them making these cars not start or move unless it detects human vital signs or something similar. And if it detects a person with no vitals, it calls 911 or drives to the hospital.
There are probably holes in what I am saying as I have a learning disability so my thinking doesn't go all the way through, but I am a big fan of Knight Rider and honestly the "smart cars" they have today are nothing like KITT :)
Boom! From My S5