Ford patents real-life, self-driving Robo-Cop car

January 31, 2018

Someone at Ford must appreciate classic action movies. First, the company announced it was making a driverless pizza delivery car—on the 20th anniversary of SkyNet. Now, Ford has a patent for a real life Robo-Cop car.

Rather than a mechanized Alex Murphy driving a Taurus, however, the Ford police car of the future will drive itself, and even initiate its own pursuits.

The patent, first filed in July 2016 and recently awarded, suggests that the self-driving police car is capable of far more than navigating through traffic with an officer on board. Ford sees the technology as capable of recognizing routine traffic violations, determining whether the vehicle in question is being driven by a human, and even remotely issuing citations.

“Routine police tasks,” the filing reads, “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.”

One key to Ford’s self-driving police car is the use of “machine learning” to teach itself not only traffic patterns, but the best places to sit and monitor traffic—much like the cliche of an officer hiding behind a billboard. Essentially, they will function as artificially intelligent mobile surveillance units.

Once a traffic violator is spotted, Ford’s self-driving police car can even initiate a pursuit. Fellow police cars and stationary sensors mounted alongside the road can be used to keep the self-driving pursuit vehicle perpetually aware of the suspect’s position. The car’s AI can then either plan an optimal route or enlist fellow self-driving police cars to give chase, using vehicle-to-vehicle communication to ensure each car has access to the same information.

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