Have you ever wondered if we live in a cyberpunk dystopia? Could you ever imagine the modern world being called “a dehumanized, high-tech future,” or picture incredibly advanced technology existing only to serve the whims of the few while the many live as workers or keyboard-cowboy outlaws? Does the quote “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed” feel at all relevant to your daily life?
While you ponder those questions, consider this:The San Francisco Police Department is now using footage from autonomous vehicle tests in criminal investigations. Those Cruise and Waymo cars, recently permitted to shuttle passengers around the city, now serve double duty as roving 24/7 police surveillance. Phillip K. Dick, eat your heart out.
As reported by former Jalop Aaron Gordon at Vice’s Motherboard, the San Francisco Police Department has written up a series of guidelines for how its officers should interact with autonomous vehicles. Among the other entries in the list (“Do not pull vehicles over unless a legitimate law enforcement action exists” is my personal favourite) the department mentions AVs’ uses in investigations — and states that SFPD has already used them for surveillance. From Motherboard:
The document released to Motherboard is a three-page guide for how officers should interact with autonomous vehicles (AVs), especially ones that have no human driver inside. It outlines basic procedures such as how to interact with the vehicles (”Do not open the vehicle for non-emergency issues” and ”Do not pull vehicles over unless a legitimate law enforcement action exists”) as well as whether to issue a citation for a moving violation for a car with no human driver (”No citation can be issued at this time if the vehicle has no one in the driver’s seat” but an incident report should be written instead). And the section titled “Investigations” has two bullet points advising officers of their usefulness in collecting footage.
Privacy advocates say the revelation that police are actively using AV footage is cause for alarm.