Autonomous Police Cruisers May Be On The Way Thanks To Ford

Most people aren’t even ready to consider a future with autonomous vehicles, even if they think it possible. Some see it as a terrible idea that can only result in a cataclysmic loss. This is the pattern with every new technological innovation. Even if you’re current on the rapid progress that autonomous vehicles are making–some even have limited autonomy right now–you probably haven’t thought about the effects on other industries. Ford just filed a patent for an autonomous police car, and we can’t help but think: “Okay, how’s that going to work?!”

Well, we’re soon to find out.

…Or, maybe not. It’s important to recognize that a patent doesn’t necessarily mean anything. You can patent a technology, but that doesn’t mean you’ll make it work. It might not function properly, or maybe there simply won’t be a market available for the product. The patent filed by Ford would work much like traffic cameras do, except they’ll be mobile. The driverless vehicle would work to spot traffic infractions without the need to place officers on the streets. It might be time to stop that jaywalking and keep your seatbelt buckled.

In the future, most vehicles will likely operate on wireless artificial intelligence, and would be linked with other cars on the road. That means that an autonomous police cruiser could theoretically link up with your own vehicle, and either pursue or automatically send a citation to the address where the vehicle is registered. Then again, we have to wonder what the point is if the future is already fully automated. If we’re all in driverless vehicles in twenty years, then how will people commit traffic violations? These vehicles won’t park illegally or go over the limit. A.I. is only as capable as we allow it to be, and we’ll be sure it followed the rules we set forth!

Regulators still haven’t worked out all the details for autonomous vehicles, but most states are working it out as quickly as they can. This is the future, and our lawmakers are thankfully well aware of it. The real questions revolve around how these shocking advances will affect our jobs, our rights, and our economy. Tesla is already building driverless big rigs, and some companies are already making orders. Say goodbye to truck drivers. Sadly, that’s only the first wave of lost jobs. Which are next, and which jobs might replace the ones we lost? We’re about to step into an exciting–and very scary–future.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.