This article details critical law enforcement issues and needs related to the coming age of autonomous vehicles.
The autonomous vehicle revolution will reinvent the ways in that people and goods are moved, cities and roads are planned, and transportation resources are deployed and conserved. The question is how soon — not if — driverless vehicles become common sights in driveways and rear-view mirrors. Already, across the globe, autonomous cars, trucks, street-legal delivery carts, and people-movers are popping up in limited real-life applications in communities, not just on test tracks. Law enforcement, meanwhile, faces its own race to be ready for driverless vehicles, as it plays catch-up with deep-pocket automotive and artificial intelligence industries. The challenges of crime-stopping, traffic control, public safety, and cybersecurity on the road can only grow as more human drivers give way to algorithms. A panel of experts sponsored by the National Institute of Justice convened in 2019 to begin identifying the universe of critical law enforcement issues and needs related to the coming age of autonomous vehicles. Supported by researchers from RAND Corporation (RAND) and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), the panel of law enforcement, industry, and traffic safety leaders was tasked with articulating key public safety challenges presented by autonomous road vehicle development over the next five years. In the end, the panel identified 17 high-priority needs (i.e., an opportunity or problem and related solution) associated with key systemic issues or challenges.