Level 5 autonomous vehicles (AVs) allow shipping companies to significantly reduce their costs and liability as they no longer need long-haul truck drivers. However, this also applies to smugglers. The trafficking of drugs, people, weapons and goods on the black market will all receive a blessing from AVs.
Easy to ship
There will be an huge increase in vehicles on the road with the advent of fully autonomous technology.
Long-haul delivery vehicles can largely be used without passengers in them and probably won’t even have room for a passenger. They will cruise highways and borders.
Law enforcement officers cannot currently scan every vehicle on the road as is, but only after vehicle traffic increases. They will have to figure out ways to determine which vehicles are likely to be used for illegal activities; and what to do if they find one with illegal goods in it.
Currently, there is ambiguity about who should be held accountable when an AV (or any form of artificial intelligence) breaks a law.
For smugglers, there are risks in having a person present: a person with a criminal record or inaccurate documentation can raise suspicions of law enforcement, they can make mistakes, they can break laws while driving, they can take off with the load.
Take the person out of the picture and smuggling illegal goods becomes largely risk-free: as long as there is a way for people to anonymously buy and operate AVs (which will probably be possible as it currently is with cell phones, laptops, cars, weapons, etc.), the smugglers could lose the most if the AV is discovered, the vehicle and the cargo.
Actions the police can take
The police might want to take control of your car, or even take control of just the cameras on the car†
Regulations can be made for which logs must be reported to law enforcement authorities: The logs may contain the locations entered as destinations, the complete location history of the vehicle, the camera recordings and the biometric data of the person using the vehicle.
Waymo already works with the Chandler Arizona Police Department on possibly including a kill switch that allows the police to shut down an AV. Meanwhile, as AVs become ubiquitous on the streets, their cameras can be used to record anything, eliminating privacy in public and serve as a witness to crimes†
A internal training document for the San Francisco Police Department (released after a request for public records) revealed that they have suspected already used AV video recording in several investigations.
Police departments will also have more staff available to allocate to other resources as they will not be required to conduct traffic enforcement and they will have their own AVs to conduct patrols.
Is law enforcement prepared?
It is unclear to what extent law enforcement agencies are prepared for the potential of people using AVs for criminal activity.
However, some have already started exploring the possibilities. The FBI’s law enforcement bulletin has a article proposing the possibility of drug and human traffickers using AVs. This article in the Dickinson Law Review proposes equipping all AVs with facial recognition as a way to curb human trafficking.
Ultimately, regulators and law enforcement will need to address the potential illegal use of AVs.
This article was originally published on Medium and is reproduced with permission from the author. You can read the original here†