FBI: Self-Driving Cars Could Be 'Lethal Weapons' in Criminal Hands

Jul 18, 2014 04:50 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

Self-driving cars could help cops in the future, but they are likely to assist criminals during a getaway as well, the FBI said in a recent report.

The agency predicts that autonomous vehicles will probably be approved by the federal government for everyday consumers in the next seven years, Forbes reported.

While self-driving autos would be handy for authorities, they will also allow people speeding away from a crime scene to multi-task easily at the wheel; for example, criminals could flee the scene and have their hands free to fire shots at police at the same time.

The "unclassified but restricted" report from the FBI was first obtained by The Guardian.

"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," FBI agents wrote in the report.

Even though they could pose a threat, self-driving cars would also be helpful when it comes to following suspects.

 "Surveillance will be made more effective and easier, with less of a chance that a patrol car will lose sight of a target vehicle," said the report, as quoted by The Guardian.

"In addition, algorithms can control the distance that the patrol car is behind the target to avoid detection or intentionally have a patrol car make opposite turns at intersections, yet successfully meet up at later points with the target."

Google and other companies have been hard at work developing autonomous vehicle technology.

The famous Google self-driving car recently navigated city street conditions in a successful run.

"We've improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously--pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn,"  Chris Urmson, who heads Google's self-driving car project, said in a blog post published in April.

"A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can't--and it never gets tired or distracted."

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