In a patent application first filed in 2016, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) describes an autonomous (self-driving) police vehicle that can determine when another vehicle has broken a traffic law and may then give pursuit to the lawbreaker. We are not making this up.
The details of an autonomous vehicle might work are a little vague, but the general idea is that a sensor would detect when another vehicle is driving faster than the legal speed limit and then “maneuvering” the police vehicle ultimately to take a photo of the offending vehicle.
Rather than pulling the offender over, the police vehicle would establish a “wireless communication with the first vehicle; and wirelessly transmitting a first message to the first vehicle, the first message indicating the violation of the one or more traffic laws by the first vehicle.”
What’s the point? According to Ford:
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. … [A]n autonomous vehicle may enforce traffic laws by identifying violators, pulling over the offending vehicle, capturing an image of license place of 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.
The autonomous police car is a step or two beyond the speed and traffic-light cameras that are already controversial means of enforcing traffic laws. The proposed cop car is not many steps away from a vehicle that could either disable or assume control of another vehicle.
And the stealth bit? Look at the illustration Ford submitted. The autonomous police car is hiding behind a large pine tree. How much stealthier could it be?
Visit the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office website for the full patent application.