By Robin Washington
The Marshall Project
If you’ve ever been pulled over for a broken taillight and suffered a punishing fine — or worse — you can take heart that this experience will be obsolete in a generation. Not because police are going soft, but because you won’t be doing the driving.
Autonomous vehicles are coming, and with them some challenges for law enforcement that police forces have barely started to contemplate. Say goodbye to such staples of policing as the high-speed chase and the roadside stop.
“I think you would see the end of traffic stops,” says Joseph A. Schafer, the criminal justice department head at Southern Illinois University. “It radically changes police-public encounters.”
Ticketing the occupants of self-driving cars would be futile, predicts Schafer, a co-author of “The Future of Policing” and member of Police Futurists International, a group advocating “improving criminal and social justice” through “long-range planning and forecasting.” Riders in driverless cars probably won’t own the vehicles, which would more likely be part of a Google or General Motors fleet picking up passengers and dropping them off all day long. In that case, riders wouldn’t have responsibility for operating or maintaining the cars, and couldn’t be charged with failing to signal or driving with a broken taillight.
Driverless cars may seem like a distant fantasy, but they’re right around the corner. Automakers and tech companies are spending billions of dollars to be the first to bring fully autonomous vehicles to the market. Ford is promising to do so by 2021, and there are near-fully autonomous taxis in Singapore and minibuses in Switzerland.
Picture: jurvetson [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons