On Wednesday, Elon Musk's SpaceX launched the 'Falcon Heavy' successfully. The rocket is on its way to orbit Mars and Musk has the Tesla Roadster onboard and at one point will be positioned at the front of the rocket. On earth, Tesla will be conducting an autonomous vehicle test sometime in the next three to six months. Looking a little further out Ford Global Technologies foresees autonomous Police vehicles and their patent on this surfaced last month. Our report takes a peek at what it's all about.
Ford notes in their patent filing background that the advent and continuous development of driver assistance systems enhance and automate the driving process for safety and improved user experience. One example is autonomous vehicles, which can sense the environment and surrounding areas to navigate without human input. While autonomous vehicles can and will be programmed to obey traffic laws, a human driver can override that programming to control and operate the vehicle at any time. When a vehicle is under the control of a human driver there is a possibility of violation of traffic laws. Thus, there will still be a need to police traffic.
Ford's invention covers automotive vehicles and, more particularly, to autonomous police vehicles.
Ford later notes that "Routine police tasks, such as issuing tickets for speeding or failure to stop at a stop sign, can be automated so that human police officers can perform tasks that cannot be automated. Accordingly, the present invention describes autonomous police vehicles that can, on behalf of human police officers, perform automated tasks such as enforcing traffic laws and issuing tickets/citations to drivers that violate the traffic laws."
Ford's invention will result in autonomous police vehicle's enforcing traffic laws by identifying violators, pulling over the offending vehicle, capturing an image of license plate of the offending vehicle, determining a driver of the offending vehicle, receiving an image of the driver's license (if a human is driving the vehicle), authenticating the driver's license, determining whether to issue a warning or a ticket, and communicating with the vehicle regarding the warning/ticket decision and an indication that the offending vehicle is free to leave.
In Ford's patent FIG. 1 noted below, we're able to see an illustration describing example scenario #100 in which an autonomous police vehicle #110 may be used in carrying out routine police tasks in lieu of or in addition to human police officers.
The autonomous police vehicle may be trained or otherwise programmed using machine learning tools (e.g., deep neural networks) to find good hiding spots to catch violators of traffic laws such as, for example, speeders, red light violators and stop sign violators.
The autonomous police vehicle may be equipped with one or more sensors (e.g., camera(s) and/or a laser system), shown as and represented by a sensor #115 in FIG. 1, to detect the speed of nearby vehicles, and the autonomous police vehicle may determine where to aim each of the one or more sensors to accurately monitor traffic.
The autonomous police vehicle may be in wireless communication with a remotely located central computing system #195 via a wireless communication infrastructure #170 and a communication network #190.
In operation, the autonomous police vehicle may obtain an indication of violation of one or more traffic laws by a vehicle #120. For example, the autonomous police vehicle may control or otherwise adjust its position and/or orientation from its current position and/or orientation so that the laser system can be aimed or pointed in a predetermined direction (e.g., towards a flow of oncoming traffic) based on a line of sight from a current location of the autonomous police vehicle to a spot intersecting the flow of oncoming traffic.
In scenario #100, the autonomous police vehicle may position and/or orient itself so that the laser system aims or points toward a flow traffic including vehicle #120. As a result, the autonomous police vehicle may receive data (e.g., the speed of vehicle #120) from the laser system. Based on the received data, the autonomous police vehicle may determine that a speed of vehicle exceeded a threshold speed based on the received data. The autonomous police vehicle may determine the threshold speed for a given section of road by searching a local traffic laws database for a legal speed limit for that section of road or by querying remote central computing system #195.
The autonomous vehicle may also be able via its camera system determine if the a vehicle has run a red light.
In Ford's patent FIG. 2 noted above we're able to see an illustrated example scenario #200 describing what may happen when an autonomous police pulls over a vehicle (#220) which has violated one or more traffic laws.
As shown in the scenario, at time T1, the autonomous police vehicle and the violating a traffic law may first establish a wireless communication using any protocol and/or technology suitable for vehicle-to-vehicle communication.
At time T2, the autonomous police vehicle may wirelessly transmit a first message to vehicle #220, with the first message indicating the violation of the one or more traffic laws. The vehicle may be in either an autonomous driving mode (e.g., driven autonomously by a control system of the vehicle) or a manual driving mode (e.g., driven manually by a human driver).
In an event that the vehicle was in the autonomous driving mode at the time of the violation of the one or more traffic laws, at time T3, vehicle #220 may wirelessly transmit a response to the autonomous police vehicle with the response indicating that vehicle #220 was in an autonomous driving mode at a time of the violation of the one or more traffic laws.
The response may also include information identifying vehicle #220 and/or registered owner of the vehicle. Upon receiving the response from vehicle #220, the autonomous police vehicle may determine a disposition regarding the violation of the one or more traffic laws by vehicle #220.
At time T4, the autonomous police vehicle may wirelessly transmit a second message to vehicle #220, such as issuing a ticket with a fine or a warning without a fine, and may also include a message indicating that vehicle #220 is free to leave the scene. The autonomous police vehicle may keep a record of what has just transpired and/or wirelessly transmit the record to one or more government agencies (e.g., police station and/or department of motor vehicles).
Drunken Driver AI Detection
Ford adds that the autonomous police vehicle may be equipped or otherwise configured to carry one or more passengers or users (e.g., police officer(s)), one or more additional manual actions may be taken by the passenger police officer(s) in scenario 200.
For instance, in an event that it is determined that the driver of vehicle #220 is driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), the passenger police officer(s) of the autonomous police vehicle may take appropriate actions accordingly (e.g., stepping out of autonomous police vehicle to examine the driver of vehicle #220 and arresting the driver0.
The autonomous police vehicle may, through machine learning, recognize abnormal behavior of a vehicle as an indication of the vehicle being operated by a driver under influence. Accordingly, when the movement of vehicle #220 appears suspicious (e.g., sudden stop, meandering movement, abnormal lane changes or the like), the autonomous police vehicle may pull over vehicle #220 under the assumption that the vehicle is in manual driving mode and that the driver is under influence.
Ford's patent FIG. 4 is a flowchart depicting an example process, while FIG. 3 below is a simplified block diagram depicting an example apparatus.
Ford's first patent regarding future autonomous Police vehicles is benign focusing on delivering tickets are using AI to assist a Police officer in determining the behavior of drunk driver.
However, as time goes on, the vehicle's AI system will likely be able to perform more sophisticated actions such as chasing a vehicle suspected of having drivers or passengers that are criminals or performing criminal acts. It's likely to be able to call up helicopter drones to assist in a car chase and be able to control traffic lights in realtime so as to control traffic in a way that will assist in forcing a driver to stop their vehicle.
After watching the Netflix series Altered Carbon this weekend, it's easy for your mind to drift off and think of other advanced scenarios. We know that this simple patent will eventually lead to advanced AI driven SWAT vehicles with possible heavy artillery, AI driven tanks, subs, fighter aircraft and so forth.
As electric vehicles become the norm over the next decade, AI systems built into police vehicles will be able to simply wirelessly shut off the battery to stop a vehicle.
How far will governments go in allowing these developments to occur in the future is unknown.
Yet for now, we can say that we're living in a time where we're at least able to see the initial plans for the first generation of autonomous police vehicles. From patent to reality could only take a few years. Well, at least for the AI systems to begin rolling out into next-gen cop cars.
The problem with such technology is that while we know it may start off benefitting the "good guys" - eventually it'll be used by the bad guys. Welcome to the beginning of automated road mayhem.
Ford Global Technologies patent which was published by the USPTO in January 2017 was originally filed in July 2016.
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