Police cars at night

Ford files patent application for law-enforcing autonomous police car

Image credit: Dreamstime

The self-driving vehicle would be able to spot common traffic law violations, pursue the offending drivers and dish out appropriate warnings or punishments.

The application was filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office in July 2016. There is no suggestion so far as to whether or not such a vehicle will be developed further.

According to the patent, this vehicle would use wirelessly received signals from a remote device – such as a surveillance camera or second vehicle – to detect when other vehicles violate traffic laws. This could include speeding or driving through red lights and stop signs. Using a range of technologies employed in self-driving cars under development, such as optical cameras, Lidar and machine learning, the autonomous vehicle would then pursue the driver on the road.

The vehicle may have access to government records of speed limits on certain stretches of roads, which it could use to help determine when a certain driver is violating traffic law.

Ford suggests that deep neural networks – multi-layered machine learning frameworks which mimic biological brains, used for advanced image recognition – could be used to identify locations in which to watch and wait for traffic violations.

“[It will] manoeuvre the autonomous vehicle to pursue the first vehicle, track a location of the first vehicle, and control operations related to at least a speed and steering of the autonomous vehicle based on a result of the tracking,” the application states.

The autonomous vehicle would be able to issue tickets and citations to offending drivers, and send a record of the traffic law breach to a nearby police station.

“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.”

While simple tasks such as these have the potential to be automated, Ford states in its patent application that police officers will continue to play an extremely important role in upholding traffic law, even riding inside these autonomous vehicles and taking control of them when necessary.

“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.”

In June 2017, the Dubai Police force welcomed a humanoid robot to its ranks, which assists human police officers in patrolling busy areas in the city, and keeps watch for wanted criminals. In the US, Knightscope’s security robots have been hired by companies as a low cost alternative to human security guards to provide surveillance and security in offices and public places.

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