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FBI: Google’s self-driving cars may become ‘game-changing lethal weapons’

Published Jul 16th, 2014 4:45PM EDT
Google Self-Driving Cars Security Risks

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Self-driving cars, such as Google’s experimental vehicles, will be available to buyers in coming years, but the FBI is not particularly thrilled about their arrival, The Guardian has learned from a restricted report obtained under a public records requests.

The FBI says that criminals may use this “game-changing” technology to perform various other activities while the car drives itself, in order to escape police and/or harm others. The FBI said that autonomous cars “will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car.”

The agency envisions smart criminals who would be able to customize the software found onboard of such smart cars to evade chasers by bypassing rules of the road. Having their hands free during a chase would also let them shoot at pursuers from their getaway cars. Furthermore, in other scenarios, self-driving cars could be programmed to hit certain targets after being filled with explosives – what the FBI describes as “lethal weapons.”

However, the FBI also acknowledges the fact that self-driving cars will be useful to regular consumers, and could lead to a “substantial” reduction of accidents caused by various human errors.

The agency also says that just as smart cars can help criminals evade law enforcement, they’ll also help police and agencies tail suspects and chase them in a smarter way.

“Surveillance will be made more effective and easier, with less of a chance that a patrol car will lose sight of a target vehicle,” says the report. “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.”

Meanwhile, Google’s cutesy cars are far from becoming the threats the FBI envisions them to be in worst case scenarios. As the publication points out, Google’s “current state-of-the-art” vehicle can’t drive faster than 25mph, which isn’t exactly the kind of getaway speed criminal would appreciate.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.