Autonomous vehicles and flying drones that would disable a suspect’s car remotely with an electromagnetic pulse are set to patrol highways by 2025 according to a number of concept vehciles designed by major manufacturers such as Honda, BMW and General Motors.
The 2012 LA Design Challenge asked companies to come up with a concept for “Highway Patrol Vehicle 2025,” with the winner set to be announced next week.
Most of the entrants for the competition have responded with designs that overwhelmingly suggest “patrol cars and motorcycles would be replaced by computerized drones,” within the next 10-15 years, reports the New York Times.
Honda’s entry, the Honda CHP Drone Squad, includes both a four wheeled drone vehicle and a two-wheeled motorcycle-style drone, both of which would hunt down suspects without the need to be manned.
General Motors’ concept, named the Vault Squad, includes three futuristic vehicles designed to “observe, pursue or engage.” The NY Times noted that the term “engage” was “left menacingly undefined.”
BMW’s DesignworksUSA studio came up the E-Patrol (Human-Drone Pursuit Vehicle), which would allow the operator to deploy an airborne armed surveillance drone which would have the capability to disable a suspect’s vehicle using an electromagnetic pulse.
“The main structure can deploy three drones. The top drone sits above the main structure and is a flying drone, while the other two are one wheel vehicles attached to the rear,” according to BMW. “In the case of a pursuit during heavy traffic areas, the patrol officer sitting in the two passenger main structure can deploy either the flying drone or one of the single wheel drones to chase the suspect and report back data to the main structure. When all drones are deployed, the main structure can continue to function. All drones have added protection benefits in that they can send an impulse to another vehicle and disable it.”
One of the concept drawings for the BMW design shows a license plate scanner within the vehicle which automatically brings up a photograph of every driver on the road, whether they are a suspect or not.
“By coincidence or destiny, designers at several companies came up with concepts for robotic, autonomously driven vehicles on ground, water and air. These future police cruisers — usually presented as story boards rather than actual vehicles — recall today’s Predator and Global Hawk drones, stars of the anti-insurgency efforts. They may give new meaning to those signs that read “Speed limit enforced by aircraft,” writes the Times’ Phil Patton.
As we have previously highlighted, the whole direction of drones and automated robot technology being developed by the likes of DARPA is all geared towards having machines take the role of police officers in pursuing and engaging “insurgents” on American soil.
Technology experts have warned that removing the human element from law enforcement could lead to people being summarily executed.
Although Boston Dynamics and DARPA claim the robots are ostensibly being designed to help conduct humanitarian and relief missions, Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, recently warned that the true purpose of the machines is less benign.
Speaking about the Cheetah, a robot currently being perfected by Boston Dynamics, Sharkey said the device represented, “an incredible technical achievement, but it’s unfortunate that it’s going to be used to kill people.”
“It’s going to be used for chasing people across the desert, I would imagine. I can’t think of many civilian applications – maybe for hunting, or farming, for rounding up sheep.” Sharkey added.
“But of course if it’s used for combat, it would be killing civilians as well as it’s not going to be able to discriminate between civilians and soldiers.”
You can see images of all the LA Design Challenge concepts at this link.