The Machines (Might Be) Coming! Ford Files Patent for Autonomous “Robocop” Car

Attribution @AmberCase
Attribution @AmberCase


Speeding tickets and dystopian fantasies may be increasing in the next few years.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has published a patent by Ford for an autonomous system with a police car that can either act on its own or alongside a traditional human officer. The patent, originally filed in 2016, references “cameras, road sensors, license plate readers, touch sensitive panels, speakers, LIDAR, ultrasound sensors and microphones, satellite connectivity, and radar detectors to record the speed of other vehicles,” forebodingly referred to as a “laser gun.” The patent also references machine learning and neural networks.

The robot cop — but not RoboCop — can hide behind trees or buildings, determine when a violation has occurred on the road and refer the case to a local speed camera or another connected sensor in order to corroborate evidence.

It could also begin a pursuit of the vehicle that is speeding or wirelessly communicate a violation directly to the offending vehicle, which can respond with an image of the driver’s license to ensure the ticket reaches the right person. This means that the car could connect with ‘a locally stored record of drivers,’ and automatically link a passing license plate to a driver’s record.

In the patent application, Ford notes that “routine police tasks, such as issuing tickets for speeding or failure to stop at a stop sign, can be automated so that police officers can perform tasks that cannot be automated.” The company also expects robot cop patent to enhance first responder response time to traffic violations as messages, and direction, would be wirelessly sent to the vehicle immediately.

While a patent does not necessarily mean a consumable product, Ford intends to release a “fully autonomous vehicle” by 2021. It would be expected that the data collected by the autonomous cop car would be collected and stored, but the patent does not mention any of its plans in relation to privacy.

In the meantime, drivers better beware.

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