Screenwriters, rejoice! The Guardian recently got a hold of an FBI report (restricted, not classified) that basically outlines the next several Hollywood movies involving driverless cars as lethal weapons. (Even if James Bond pretty much beat them to it).
While evasive driving and high speed chases might be difficult to program into an autonomous car (remember Minority Report?), the FBI worries that hands-free driving might mean that criminals could use their hands for other things. While some people might take the opportunity to knit or read, criminals could decide to start shooting. (Presumably with much better aim than most movie villains.)
There’s also the concern that cars could be used as bombs--loaded up with explosives and sent off on their own. Or, that someone could hack a target’s car, tampering with the systems and killing or injuring them. After all, everything can be hacked.
Of course, the FBI are paid to worry about these kinds of things. Just because they are worried about it doesn’t mean it will happen. And the FBI sees the benefits of self-driving cars, too. The cars could be used to tail suspects, and traffic in general would theoretically be safer. As they say in the report, ”the risk of distraction or poor judgement leading to a collision that stems from manual operation would be substantially reduced."
The Bureau is looking ahead—self-driving cars like Google’s aren’t likely to be commercially available for a while, though kits to make your car semi-autonomous will go on sale sooner than that. But hey, if you really need some additional worries when you’re on the road, you can think about how many computers in your car are already ripe for hacking. Or, you could just focus on the road.