Autonomous vehicles are a relatively new technology that promises to deliver many benefits, including travel comfort, improved safety, and reduced road accidents and deaths due to human error.
However, many concerns around adoption exist, including trust, privacy, reliability, liability, crime, security, and resilience. One of the many concerns is the potential crimes that are enabled by these vehicles.
According to the FBI, although we are yet to understand how criminals might monetize (or otherwise benefit from) attacks against autonomous vehicles or use them as a tool for crime, autonomous vehicles will significantly impact the operational capabilities of both law enforcement and its adversaries.
These “game-changing” vehicles, designed to operate safely and autonomously without human intervention, could be used as “lethal weapons.” Possible security threats include coordinated attacks using multiple autonomous vehicles, exploiting autonomous vehicles as weapons, attacking other vehicles such as police cars, using ransomware for extortion, blocking roads, tunnels, and other critical infrastructure, diverting traffic, stealing sensitive personal data and property, helping criminals escape or watch potential robbery locations, and cause collisions by hiding objects on the road.
This post will consider a few possible scenarios in which criminals can use autonomous vehicles to enable criminal activities.
Smuggling – Drug and weapons
Autonomous vehicles have the potential to enable smuggling in several ways. One way is through their ability to operate without human intervention, which could allow them to travel across borders or through checkpoints undetected. This could make it easier for smugglers to transport goods such as drugs, weapons, or contraband across national borders or other restricted areas.
Another way that autonomous vehicles could enable smuggling is through their ability to travel long distances without stopping. This could make it easier for smugglers to transport goods over large distances without regular rest stops or refueling, reducing the risk of detection.
Autonomous vehicles could also be used to smuggle people across borders. For example, an autonomous vehicle could transport undocumented immigrants across a border without needing a driver or the risk of detection at checkpoints.
Autonomous vehicles could be used as a tool for terrorism, as they can be programmed to operate without human intervention. For example, a terrorist could use an autonomous vehicle to attack by programming it to drive into a crowded area or a public building.
Autonomous vehicles in terrorist attacks could present several challenges for law enforcement agencies, as it could be difficult to identify the perpetrator if they are not physically present in the vehicle. Additionally, it could be challenging to prevent such attacks, as autonomous vehicles can be difficult to detect and may not be subject to the same security measures as traditional vehicles.
Criminals could potentially use autonomous vehicles as getaway vehicles in several ways. For example, they could program the vehicle to be waiting at a specific location at a specific time, allowing them to quickly escape after committing a crime.
Another way criminals could use autonomous vehicles as getaway vehicles is by programming the vehicle to drive them away from the scene of a crime without needing a driver. This could allow the criminals to focus on the crime itself without worrying about driving or being pursued by law enforcement.
Kidnapping or abduction
Autonomous vehicles could be used as a tool for kidnapping or abduction, as they could be programmed to transport victims to a location without needing a driver. This could allow the criminals to focus on abduction without worrying about driving or being pursued by law enforcement. Additionally, criminals could use autonomous vehicles to lure victims into the vehicle under pretenses. For example, they could pose as a ride-hailing or delivery service and then use the autonomous vehicle to transport the victim to a different location.
Manufacturers and regulatory bodies are developing new security features and protocols to mitigate the risk of theft and smuggling through autonomous vehicles. These include secure software systems, encryption and authentication mechanisms, and physical security measures such as alarms and immobilizers.
To address concerns like terrorist activities using autonomous vehicles, regulatory bodies, and law enforcement agencies are exploring new security measures and prevent the use of autonomous vehicles in terrorist attacks. These measures may include developing new technologies to detect and intercept autonomous vehicles that are being used for malicious purposes and implementing regulations and standards to ensure that autonomous vehicles are designed and operated in a way that reduces the risk of terrorism.