Paul Verhoeven's 1987 classic RoboCop, prescient as it was, could not envision autonomous police vehicles that could process suspects, extract payments, offer a hearing before a judge via videophone or drive suspects to jail.
Indeed, combining two of America's favorite pastimes -- cars and litigation -- has not been imagined on the silver screen in a manner so complete before.
Motorola's patent for an autonomous police car packs quite a few functions of the criminal justice system into a vehicle, enough not only for Uber drivers but for police officers to worry about job security in the age of autonomy. And it looks like it's only a few years away from reality, as most of the tech presented in the patent looks 80 percent ready with current technology.
Motorola's "mobile law enforcement communication system" is a Level 5 autonomous vehicle, meaning no driver is needed. But the autonomous car is not the most important thing here, it turns out, and Level 5 autonomy is not too far in the future if autonomous car developers are to be believed. The car features facial recognition software -- already in use -- and fingerprint scanners, allowing the car to identify suspects and pull up their records. There's also a built-in device to test blood alcohol levels.
Then it gets weird, at least from a due process standpoint. The car can read you your rights (unfortunately not in ED-209's voice), and allows you to reach your lawyer and a judge via videophone. Once a bail amount is set, you can swipe your credit card directly in the car.
"Depending on the infraction, the order of the processing may be varied," the patent application says. "For example, the testing for drugs and/or alcohol may be part of an initial detention, followed by an arrest as a result of affirmative test results. In accordance with some embodiments, the arrest of an individual and placement within the vehicle is followed by communication system providing the detainee with a reading and visual presentation of legal rights in the detainee's primary language."