Stop-and-Frisk and AI Autonomous Cars

When AI self-driving cars are prevalent on the road, the author argues police stops will still be occurring for a variety of potential reasons. (GETTY IMAGES)

By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider

Have you ever looked in your rear-view mirror and watched anxiously as a police car came up behind you?

I’d dare say that most of us dread such a moment.

It does not necessarily mean that you are a criminal or have done anything wrong. It’s the notion that the police officer can potentially pull you over, referred to as a traffic stop, which gets us nervous and on-edge. Am I doing anything wrong in my driving, you right away begin to ponder. Is there anything about my car that might spark a traffic stop, you contemplate as your mind races trying to ascertain whether you are going to get pulled over or not.

If the police car opts to go around you, it usually brings you a sense of momentary relief. Thank goodness, avoided getting stopped. For some drivers, once they realize that a police car is directly behind them, they will opt to switch lanes in hopes that the police car will merely go alongside and no longer sit behind their car. I know a few drivers that the minute they spot a police car even many cars behind them, they will right away try to maneuver into a lane that will keep them from perchance having the cops directly on their tail.

Why do police perform these ad hoc traffic stops?

In theory, the traffic stop is intended to ensure the safety of the roadways.

If you are driving in a dangerous fashion, it seems sensible that having you pulled to the side of the road might prevent you from ramming into another car or running over a pedestrian. If your car is exhibiting some adverse condition and not fully safely drivable, suppose your exhaust pipe is hanging onto the ground and dragging along, this can create a traffic hazard for you and for other cars nearby. Probably handy to have a traffic stop to inform you about the matter and make sure that you are aware of it and take care of it.

There were an estimated 60,000 traffic stops made by police in Los Angeles last year, according to numbers released by the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department).

That’s a lot of traffic stops.

And that’s only counting Los Angeles.

Nationwide, it’s estimated there are 20 million traffic stops per year.  As most driver’s know, a traffic stop consists of a police officer asking you to pull over your car. You are then to find a safe and reasonably soon spot to pull over, of which the police might direct you to such a spot.

Drivers And Traffic Stops

I recall recently watching a cop car pull over a driver on the freeway and it was a bit of a struggle of the driver regarding knowing what to do.

The car had entered into the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) or carpool lane, doing so illegally by crossing the line that you aren’t supposed to cross, plus the driver was solo in their car and had no legal basis for getting into the car lane. A double whammy. This is a case where two wrongs do not make a right.

In any case, the third whammy was that the driver did all of this while a police car was just about four cars back of him, and one might be thankful that the cop happened to be there and that the driver was stupid enough to make the foul move at the right-time and right-place. I say that it was the right-time and right-place because I witness drivers doing this same carpool invading stunt all the time, during my morning and evening commutes from work. I usually watch it happen in disgust and dream that somehow a police car might suddenly appear out-of-the-blue and catch these dolts.

For this driver, it was the wrong-time and wrong-place to make the dimwitted move.

I was glad that it was actually the right-time and right-place since the person got caught. In case you think that I am merely wishing for ill will to other drivers, I’d like to point out that these scofflaws that enter improperly into the carpool lane are endangering them and other drivers. I’d be willing to bet that this particular driver has done this same act many times. Each occasion, his radical entry has the potential to disrupt the carpool lane traffic, and could cause a driver to swerve or hit their brakes, all of which can lead to a car accident.

When the police car quickly moved up to get behind the car, the driver must have realized they were caught red handed. I suppose for a few seconds the driver prayed that it was merely a coincidence that the police car had shimmied up to their bumper. The officer turned on his flashing light bar and used his loudspeaker to tell the driver to pull over. I do believe that there were other nearby drivers that were applauding. It was one of those gleeful moments, in spite of the usual morning bumper-to-bumper traffic woes.

The driver though did something that made no sense. He opted to rapidly slow down and was going to come to a full stop apparently in the carpool lane. Huh? Duh? The police officer got on his loudspeaker and told the driver to start cutting across the lanes toward the right side of the freeway. The police car then straddled the carpool lane and the lane to the right of it, offering a kind of traffic buffer to aid the wayward driver.

As you can guess, the traffic now was all but grinding to a halt. This one driver had managed to not only mess with the carpool lane, he now had successfully made the Los Angeles freeway traffic worse than it already was. The driver inched over in front of the police car and got into the leftmost normal lane of traffic.

I was stuck just behind this step-wise effort to get the driver off the road. The police car had to straddle the next right side lane and guide the car to move into that lane. It was nearly painful to watch, one agonizingly slow lane shift at a time.

How could this person have gotten a driver’s license?

If they cannot make their way to the side of the road, what other driving tactics do they not know? Get this idiot off our streets, I was exclaiming inside my car.

I realize that any of us can be caught off-guard about pulling over for a traffic stop.

It is nerve wracking, for sure.

Rental Car Story

I remember one time that I was driving in a rental car and had my daughter with me.

A police car came up behind me, which I didn’t give much attention toward since I knew that I was driving legally and could not think of any reason that I might get pulled over.

All of a sudden, and to my shock, the police car turned on its flashing lights and indicated I should pull over. I was in the left turn lane at an intersection and I had to quickly identify where I could pull over. I decided that the safest act seemed to be that I would make a left turn and then just a short distance up ahead was a gas station. I would pull into a gas station. This seemed better than trying to come to a stop in the rightmost traffic lane after completing the left turn. Didn’t want to box-up traffic and also it could be dangerous to be in an active lane, since some nutty driver that’s not paying attention could ram into my car or the officer’s car.

I wasn’t sure whether the police officer might think I was trying to make a run for it, given that I would need to drive a short distance to get to the gas station. With my imagination wildly racing, I thought that whatever had led the officer to want to pull me over might escalate into a claim that I tried to evade the police and led the officer on a car chase. Though, it would be a car chase of a quarter block and at speeds of around 10-15 miles per hour. Perhaps not the usual kind of high-speed pursuit you see on TV.

Once I pulled into the gas station, the officer came up to my driver’s side window. I had rolled down my window since I assumed the officer would want to chat with me. I also had my license and also had the rental car registration ready. I had always been told that you should not make any sudden moves or reach for anything while the officer is coming up to a traffic stopped car, which could certainly make the officer nervous since you might be reaching for a weapon. I sat quietly. My daughter was puzzled and unsure too of why I had been stopped.

The officer came up and stood near my driver’s side window.

He asked me if I knew why I had been stopped.

I had no idea and so I said that I was hoping he would tell me, doing so in a polite manner.

Some people at times seem to confess their sins when an officer asks them this same question, and sometimes it is maybe helpful in that the officer might take sympathy upon your plight and let you proceed, or it could make the job easier for the officer in that you’ve essentially admitted to whatever potential illegal act that the officer suspected you performed. Others take the approach of acting like there was absolutely no reason to have been stopped and are so stubborn about it that it seems to nearly spark an argument rather than keep things cooler.

Defining Traffic Stops

A traffic stop is considered a form of detention.

The police generally have the authority via law to detain you when you are in a public place, such as the case of driving your car on public roads.

These traffic stops are often referred to as a “Terry stop.”

That’s because there was a famous Supreme Court case in 1968 involving Terry versus the state of Ohio, and it clarified aspects of the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution about searches and seizures.

In brief, the Supreme Court ruled that an officer can conduct a stop if there are articulated facts to justify such an intrusion and when based on a “reasonable suspicion” (note that a reasonable suspicion is a lesser rigorous requirement than a “reasonable belief” which is a higher standard and involves a belief in probable cause that a criminal activity might be or has taken place).

There are all kinds of twists and turns legally about the nature of these stops.

I’m not going to drag you through my own version of law school herein. Let’s just for the moment agree that they happen, and whether they are legally right or not, and whether they are suitable or not, they nonetheless occur.

I had earlier posed the question as to why the police will at times undertake these ad hoc traffic stops.

I had mentioned that it is presumably for the driving safety and roadway safety aspects. In addition, the police would be inclined to suggest that these can be considered a valuable crime fighting technique. There are those that argue that a traffic stop can be a powerful tool toward crime suppression. It is a policing tactic that one might say is a proactive method of catching crimes before they happen or perhaps while they are happening and can prevent further criminal escalation and danger to the public at large.

I’ve opted to so far mention just the traffic stop part of this activity. There is also a potential part of the activity that can be referred to as the frisk. The frisk portion would be if the officer opts to not only detain a suspect, but also then perform a pat-down or other search of the suspect. Once again, I’m not going to dig herein into the legal particulars of the frisk. Instead, for the remainder of this discussion, let’s assume that a traffic stop and a stop-and-frisk are one and the same, which means that there is a stop involved and there may or may not be a frisk involved.

In my personal story of having been pulled over by an officer while driving a rental car and with my daughter present, the rest of the tale is that the officer explained that my headlights were not on. It had just gotten dark about thirty minutes earlier and I did not realize that my headlights weren’t on (I had been on the road for about 5 minutes when the officer spotted my car).

In my normal everyday car, I always have the headlight sensor set to automatically turn on my headlights at night time. With this rental car, I had assumed the same setting was in place, but it turns out that the headlights were turned-off and I should have turned them on. My bad. I’d been driving from a mall and the surrounding area was well lit with street lights, and there were lots of cars around me that had their headlights on, thus, things seem reasonably well lit. It’s my guess that once I had gotten to a more darkened area, it would have become apparent to me that my headlights weren’t on, and I would have turned them on, sheepishly doing so and likely have put aside the matter as an inadvertent causality of using the rental car.

My daughter was as taken aback as I was that the aspect of my headlights not being on was the reason for the traffic stop.

The officer explained that it made my car a potential traffic hazard, since presumably other cars could not see my car as well without the headlights on. Plus, I could potentially not have seen the roadway fully, maybe allowing me to mistakenly run over something that I would have seen with my headlights on. He also mentioned that it is not unusual to have a drunk driver forget to turn on their headlights. Of course, he might have had other reasons in mind, but those seemed like logical and lawfully dutiful explanations.

Generally, though I am not a lawyer and do not play one on TV, it would seem that my headlights being off at nighttime would be considered a valid basis for exercising a traffic stop.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) rules in California, the driver of a car must ensure that their headlights are on at nighttime, defined as 30 minutes after sunset and must remain on until no sooner than 30 minutes before sunrise. I probably was pretty darned close to the 30 minutes after sunset, perhaps just a few minutes or so.

Upon discussion with the officer, I asked if it was okay for me to turn on the headlights to show that they worked, which he said to do, and he then allowed me to proceed on my way.

No frisk involved.

He also didn’t issue a ticket, which in theory would have been plausible since clearly, I had violated the DMV headlights usage rule.

Undoubtedly, I might have been able to fight such a ticket, but thankfully the officer seemingly exercised his sound judgment that a ticket in this case was not worthwhile overall in terms of a needed policing action.

I am guessing he likely paid close attention to the discussion that he and I had.

If my words were slurred, or if I was unduly combative, or perhaps if my breath smelled of alcohol, I’m assuming he would have gone much further with the potential suspicion that I was maybe driving while intoxicated. In this case, he likely felt comfortable that there was no other basis for the stop, since I did not appear to be drunk, and nor was there anything else that appeared to be off-kilter, and no need to pursue the matter further.

I silently cursed to myself afterward that it was a shame that my daughter was in the car when the traffic stop happened. I didn’t want her to think of me as a lawbreaker. Had it just been me in the car, I would have shrugged it off as here-and-gone. I must say that she was quite supportive and even suggested that it was handy to see how I handled the traffic stop. We discussed the whole experience, which actually lasted only a scant maybe 5 minutes, and realized that it had lessons learned for both her and me.

On the topic of crime suppression, let’s suppose that maybe I had just committed a burglary and had turned off my headlights to discreetly drive away from the location of the burglary.

That would be another basis for having stopped me, under the suspicion that I had been a burglar, or maybe was on my way to commit such an act. The headlights being off would be considered a pretext for stopping me, beyond which then the police might find other aspects leading to greater reasonable suspicion or reasonable belief of a crime or possible crime involved.

Basis For Traffic Stops

Using such a rationalization for the stop on that basis alone would likely have been rather weak and not especially supported by the intent and nor spirit of the law.

If there had been a report of a burglary that just happened nearby, or if there was a report of a car that maybe was associated with a crime and my car matched the description, those reasons might support the stop, and potentially a stop-and-frisk. Making the mental leap that headlights off translates ergo to burglar or burglary would be a less likely scenario and a reach of the law.

Police doing policing in areas of high crime rates would say that this kind of “intense policing” can make a big difference in terms of catching criminals and nabbing gang members that are involved in criminal acts. They would tend to say that the ability of police to be able to undertake a stop, and possibly a stop-and-frisk, often detects criminals before they fully commit a worse criminal act or can serve to forewarn such criminals to not commit such acts because the odds of getting nabbed are heightened.

The downside of these stops and stop-and-frisk actions is the potential for abuses of the authority to do so. In Los Angeles, there is an ongoing and acrimonious debate about how and whom seems to be selected for these stops. Some are concerned that the basis for deciding when to undertake such a traffic enforcement action, along with the outcome of the action, might be based on factors other than the ones that are considered lawfully bona fide.

In Texas, there was an interesting recent case of a police officer that had run the plates of a car and was informed that it had a week earlier or so been involved in a drug bust. The officer followed the car for a little bit. The driver of the car apparently failed to signal for a left turn the sufficient legally required distance prior to making the turn. The officer then performed a traffic stop. Subsequently, one of the passengers made a run for it and there was a shooting involved. It was also discovered that there were illegal drugs in the car.

I bring up the case mainly to point out that the presumed basis for the stop was the failure to properly signal when making the turn. A run of the plates alone would be unlikely a sufficient basis for the stop. Now, some might say that the signal usage aspect was flimsy and an obvious and troublesome pretext to stop the car, asserting that the officer wanted to stop the car, and was seeking for any basis to do so, no matter how far a stretch it might take. There are those that worry this might be the equivalent of the movie Minority Report.

I’m not going to explore the societal trade-offs involved in the matter of stops and stop-and-frisks. There are plenty of other avenues for that kind of assessment. Herein, the interest is that a car is involved in these traffic stops and/or stop-and-frisks, or even a possible stop-and-arrest.

A car doesn’t necessarily need to be involved in a stop, stop-and-frisk, or stop-and-arrest, since those actions can all take place while you are a pedestrian. You can be walking along and be stopped. You can be walking along and be stopped and frisked. You can be walking along and be stopped and arrested.

My focus is when a car is involved.

AI Autonomous Cars And Traffic Stops

What does this have to do with AI self-driving driverless autonomous cars?

At the Cybernetic AI Self-Driving Car Institute, we are developing AI software for self-driving cars. One question that sometimes comes up at conferences that I speak at involves what will happen with these kind of car stops once there are AI self-driving cars.

Allow me to offer my answer.

I’d like to first clarify and introduce the notion that there are varying levels of AI self-driving cars. The topmost level is considered Level 5. A Level 5 self-driving car is one that is being driven by the AI and there is no human driver involved. For the design of Level 5 self-driving cars, the automakers are even removing the gas pedal, the brake pedal, and steering wheel, since those are contraptions used by human drivers. The Level 5 self-driving car is not being driven by a human and nor is there an expectation that a human driver will be present in the self-driving car. It’s all on the shoulders of the AI to drive the car.

For self-driving cars less than a Level 5, there must be a human driver present in the car. The human driver is currently considered the responsible party for the acts of the car. The AI and the human driver are co-sharing the driving task. In spite of this co-sharing, the human is supposed to remain fully immersed into the driving task and be ready at all times to perform the driving task. I’ve repeatedly warned about the dangers of this co-sharing arrangement and predicted it will produce many untoward results.

For my overall framework about AI self-driving cars, see my article:

For the levels of self-driving cars, see my article:

For why AI Level 5 self-driving cars are like a moonshot, see my article:

For the dangers of co-sharing the driving task, see my article:

Let’s focus herein on the true Level 5 self-driving car. Much of the comments apply to the less than Level 5 self-driving cars too, but the fully autonomous AI self-driving car will receive the most attention in this discussion.

Here’s the usual steps involved in the AI driving task:

  • Sensor data collection and interpretation
  • Sensor fusion
  • Virtual world model updating
  • AI action planning
  • Car controls command issuance

Another key aspect of AI self-driving cars is that they will be driving on our roadways in the midst of human driven cars too. There are some pundits of AI self-driving cars that continually refer to a utopian world in which there are only AI self-driving cars on public roads. Currently there are about 250+ million conventional cars in the United States alone, and those cars are not going to magically disappear or become true Level 5 AI self-driving cars overnight.

Indeed, the use of human driven cars will last for many years, likely many decades, and the advent of AI self-driving cars will occur while there are still human driven cars on the roads. This is a crucial point since this means that the AI of self-driving cars needs to be able to contend with not just other AI self-driving cars, but also contend with human driven cars. It is easy to envision a simplistic and rather unrealistic world in which all AI self-driving cars are politely interacting with each other and being civil about roadway interactions. That’s not what is going to be happening for the foreseeable future. AI self-driving cars and human driven cars will need to be able to cope with each other. Period.

For my article about the grand convergence that has led us to this moment in time, see:

See my article about the ethical dilemmas facing AI self-driving cars:

For potential regulations about AI self-driving cars, see my article:

For my predictions about AI self-driving cars for the 2020s, 2030s, and 2040s, see my article:

Returning to the topic at-hand, let’s consider what the world be like in terms of traffic stops, stop-and-frisks, and stop-and-arrests, when we have some prevalence of AI self-driving cars.

I’ll start the discussion with a claim that often is stated as though it is a fact and yet it is completely utter nonsense. Some pundits say that there will never be a need for a traffic stop ever again.

Their logic seems to be that since they assume that all AI self-driving cars will be legally driven by the AI, there is no basis for stopping an AI self-driving car. For example, my story about driving at night time without my headlights on, well, presumably this will never happen with an AI self-driving car because the AI will realize that the headlights need to be on at nighttime and will dutifully and without fail make sure that the headlights are indeed turned on.

That seems to settle the matter, at least in the minds of those pundits.


Suppose the headlights aren’t functioning on an AI self-driving car. Yes, this could happen. Right now, it is unlikely to happen to AI self-driving cars because they are being pampered by the auto makers and tech firms. Today’s AI self-driving cars are carefully being maintained by a special team of mechanics and engineers. They make sure these AI self-driving cars are in top shape.

Once we have a prevalence of true AI self-driving cars, meaning Level 5, will all of those AI self-driving cars really be kept in such tiptop shape? I doubt it. Let’s imagine that we end-up with 250+ million AI self-driving cars in the United States alone, does it seem reasonable to expect that all 250+ million will be kept in pristine condition, all of the time, without fail? Again, I doubt it.

I realize you might try to argue that these AI self-driving cars will mainly be in fleets of ridesharing services and other such entities. Those entities will want to keep their AI self-driving cars in good working order to make sure that revenue rolls in. Any of their AI self-driving cars that might have a faltering is possibly going to mean lost revenue if it is not viable on the road and performing.

Those are certainly valid reasons to argue that AI self-driving cars will likely be kept in better shape than today’s conventional cars, but it seems a larger leap to say that we won’t have any on the road that perchance have something wrong with them. Any pundit that believes all AI self-driving cars will at all times and in all ways be perfectly functioning cars is living in a dream world. Not gonna happen.

For my article about the rise of ridesharing and AI self-driving cars, see:

For the use of AI self-driving cars non-stop, see my article:

For the aspects of repairs for AI self-driving cars, see my article:

For my article about the illegal acts that AI self-driving cars will perform, see:

For the AI aspects of pulling over for a cop, see my article:

Stopping A Self-Driving Car

I am going to therefore boldly proclaim that having headlights that are perhaps switched on but that the bulbs aren’t working is a possibility for an AI self-driving car and therefore presumably a cop could pull over the self-driving car on the basis of the headlights not functioning. Now, that being said, I admit that’s a bit of a stretch that the headlights are out and yet the AI doesn’t know it.

Let’s consider though suppose the AI does know that the headlights aren’t functioning. Should it therefore refuse to drive at night? Perhaps I’ve driven to work and had hoped to come home before dark, but got stuck at work, and so I go out to take my AI self-driving car home and it says no-go? It refuses to drive me?

For those of you that are really strict on legality, you’d say that it should not allow you to proceed in the dark.

The AI self-driving car will be a hazard to itself and other nearby cars.

I could try to counter-argue that via V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) electronic communications, the AI of my self-driving car could communicate with other nearby AI self-driving cars and let those AI self-driving cars know that its headlights aren’t functioning. It could also use V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) electronic communications and let the roadway infrastructure know that the headlights are out. This might allow other nearby AI self-driving cars to share their headlight beams in a sense with my self-driving car, by driving nearby it, and the roadway infrastructure might be able to adjust too.

I don’t want to get mired on these points with just the whole argument based on headlights. Suppose my self-driving car has expired tags on the license plate? Suppose my self-driving car has a tail pipe that is dragging on the street? There are various physical aspects of possible disrepair or concern that could be potentially used as a “reasonable” basis for opting to stop the AI self-driving car.

I mention these facets because the pundits that say there will never be any basis for making a traffic stop are seemingly forgetting that a self-driving car is a car. It will have various issues or failings that a car might ordinarily have. These then open the door toward a basis for a stop.

I get the idea that these pundits are focused on the expunging of presumably any illegal in-motion driving actions that a car might undertake. A human might forget to turn on their turn signals in the proper manner for making a turn. The AI is unlikely to make such a mistake. A human might be driving erratically and appear to be driving intoxicated, while presumably the AI will not do so. And so on.

I’ll go along with the overall notion that much of the time the AI won’t be making those kinds of human foible driving mistakes, but I’ve also many times expressed that we cannot assume that the AI is going to be some “perfect” driver that strictly and always unfailingly obeys traffic laws.

Suppose the car itself has an axle problem and the AI is trying to correct for it, meanwhile keeping the self-driving car driving ahead, as reasonable safe to do so, and will get the self-driving car to a repair shop after having completed getting a ridesharing passenger to their destination. The self-driving car might weave in a manner that seems like a drunk driving action.

The same goes for illegal driving acts.

There are situations whereby an AI self-driving car might perform an illegal driving act, doing so for a variety of reasons. It could be that the AI system has a system bug that when encountered causes the AI self-driving car to perform an illegal maneuver. It could be that the AI has “decided” that an illegal action is the best course of action, suppose that traffic has gotten blocked by a fire and the cars are making U-turns to go back away from the fire. If the U-turn is not legally allowed there, does this imply that the AI should not make the U-turn, even though it is a prudent course of action at the time?

For my article about dealing with accident scenes, see:

For my article about bugs in AI systems and self-driving cars, see:

For my article about human foibles of driving, see:

For the limits on what AI can do, see my article:

Could Be The Occupants As A Basis

There’s another potential basis for opting to stop an AI self-driving car, namely because the occupants are doing something that could be construed as a basis for a stop.

Someone is in a true AI self-driving car. The AI self-driving car is driving flawlessly and fully legally. There is nothing wrong with any of the equipment on the self-driving car and it is in good shape. The passenger in the AI self-driving car holds up a gun and brandishes it at someone else in a nearby car. This is reported to the police. You might say it was a type of road rage.

Would you say that the police have a reasonable basis to stop the AI self-driving car?

Many would say so.

Suppose a burglar, not me, uses an AI self-driving car to go to a neighborhood where they are going to commit a burglary. They quietly get out of the AI self-driving car and sneak into a house, stealing some jewelry and cash that they find. The thief gets back into the AI self-driving car and tells it to drive them home. The police get a report from a neighbor that saw the thief and saw the car, and believes a burglary was just committed.

Would you say that the police have a reasonable basis to stop the AI self-driving car?

Many would say so.

If you think it is ridiculous for someone to consider robbing a house while using an AI self-driving car as the “getaway car,” I’m not so sure that this is as far fetched as you suggest. Sure, the crook cannot readily hit the gas and try to dart away, and not get involved in a protracted car chase. But it seems like a rather simple matter of nonchalantly using the AI self-driving car to get away.

I would even say that if you are going to believe that we will someday have only AI self-driving cars on the roads, and not any human driven cars, it seems that the thieves of this world will have no choice but to use an AI self-driving car in their act of crime. For those of you that assert that the advent of all AI self-driving cars will eliminate crime, since there is no longer a chance for a conventional getaway, I can only say that you have a completely different viewpoint of humanity than I do.

Let’s try another angle on this.

A person in an AI self-driving car tells the AI to take them to a certain part of downtown and proceed to wait at a street corner.

The AI obeys.

At the street corner, the occupant rolls down the window and proceeds to purchase a quantity of narcotics from a drug dealer standing there. After getting the illegal drugs, the passenger tells the AI to head over to a friend’s house. It turns out that the drug dealer is under watch by the police and they witness the drug buying act. They let the AI self-driving car drive some distance away, so as to not tip their hands to the drug dealer, and have an officer stop the AI self-driving car to do a drug bust.

Is this a reasonable basis to stop the AI self-driving car?

Seems like it.

For my article about Natural Language Processing (NLP) and AI self-driving cars, see:

For more about conversing with AI self-driving cars, see my article:

For road rage and AI self-driving cars, see my article:

Will Be Stop-And-Frisks

All in all, I’d assert that the traffic stops, stop-and-frisk, and stop-and-arrest can still take place even in light of the emergence of AI self-driving cars.

Some pundits have said that we won’t need for police to ever do traffic enforcement when we have AI self-driving cars.

I’d be willing to vote that it should be a lot less traffic enforcement needed, but not entirely eliminated.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, we are going to have a mix of human driven cars and AI driven cars for quite a while, and so I’d suggest that the reduction in traffic enforcement will occur gradually, incrementally, and not somehow miraculously overnight. There will still be traffic enforcement for human driven cars, and then a lesser proportion toward AI self-driving cars, and as the self-driving cars numbers mount, and the number of human driven cars wane, the traffic enforcement volume will diminish.

Most of the low-hanging fruit of traffic stops will be unlikely available once we have a preponderance of AI self-driving cars. Catching an AI self-driving car in a rolling stop at a stop sign, not much of a chance. An AI self-driving car radically speeding over the speed limit, likely not. Other driving technicalities will generally be well-executed by AI self-driving cars and be infrequently presented for pre-textual stoppage.

Would someone do a drive-by shooting while inside an AI self-driving car?

Admittedly, the person doing the shooting has to be somewhat out-of-their-head to commit such a crime (in more ways than one). Besides the lack of a typical getaway effort, the odds are that the AI self-driving car would capture the entire act on its cameras and other sensors. In theory, it would be quite damning evidence against the perpetrator.

This takes us back to the drug buy instance too.

By normal accounts, the AI self-driving car would video via the on-board cameras the whole scene of the drug dealer, the drug buy, and the passenger that bought the drugs. Not so good for the crooks. Though, if the passenger opts to have the AI self-driving car come to a halt, park, and turn off the engine, this would potentially allow the crime to occur without being filmed (though some AI self-driving cars will have their cameras on at all times or be activated by various nearby activities).

I’m sure that those of a criminal bent will find a means to try and overcome the AI systems of self-driving cars and do so to more prudently perform a criminal act. It is akin to the pranking that I’ve mentioned in my writings and speeches, namely that humans will learn what weaknesses there are in the AI systems and be willing to exploit those weaknesses.

For the dangers of pranking an AI self-driving car, see:

Autonomous Car Is Its Own Cop

There are some pundits that believe there is a good chance of AI self-driving cars acting as their own form of police.

Suppose the drug buyer kept the motor running and undertook the drug buy. The AI catches the whole act via video. The AI, using its sensor analysis programs, figures out that a drug buy just happened. The AI locks the passenger into the self-driving car so they cannot flee. The AI then using V2V or V2I calls for the closest police officer to come to the self-driving car to bust the passenger. Or, maybe the AI opts to drive the passenger to the nearest police station to turn them in.

These are societal scenarios that we as a society will need to decide how to best deal with. Are we willing or wanting to have the AI be examining the sensory data for these kinds of illegal acts? If so, does this provide a slippery slope toward a Big Brother kind of atmosphere that we will all be subject to?

For my article about privacy aspect of AI self-driving cars, see:

This also raises the question of the AI self-driving car as a kind of tattletale.

Will the massive amount of sensory data being collected by the AI for purposes of driving the car be used for other purposes? Some of the data will be stored in the on-board AI systems and some of it will be stored in the cloud. Does the location of the data make a difference as to what is discovered versus what is not?

There are already byzantine laws about what, where, how, and why the search of a car can be undertaken.

The added twist for AI self-driving cars is that a lot more data will be recorded and kept, more so than on conventional cars. It will be an arduous effort of the courts and the legislature to ultimately figure out what is the proper balance between the data being private versus considered usable for crime fighting efforts.

Speaking of a tattletale, suppose the drug buy has happened and the AI self-driving car is heading to the friend’s house that the passenger wants to go visit. The friend’s house is staked out by the police, as they’ve gotten a tip that it is a place where there is a lot of illegal drugs being used.

The AI self-driving car comes down the street and a police officer stops the self-driving car. The officer goes to the window to speak with the passenger. Do you have any illegal drugs in there, the officer asks? The passenger says no. The AI, listening to the conversation, speaks up and says that there are illegal drugs and that the passenger had minutes earlier made a buy. Wham, the passenger is busted!

If you don’t like that scenario, here’s a different one.

The passenger says no, they don’t have any illegal drugs. The AI, listening to the conversation, speaks up and tells the officer that there was no basis for the traffic stop. Furthermore, the AI advises the passenger to not say anything else to the officer and to refuse any entry into the self-driving car by the officer. In that manner, the AI is acting like a legal advisor to the passenger. The passenger has purposely purchased an add-on to the AI self-driving car system that would aid him in the case of any traffic stops.

That’s a bit of a twist!

For deep personalization of AI self-driving cars, see my article:

For API’s and add-ons of AI self-driving cars, see my article:

For the role of citizen AI, see my article:

More Twists And Turns

I’ll add some additional twists that you might find of interest.

Roadblocks and sobriety checkpoints are generally legally allowed junctures at which you can be stopped while in your car. It is presumed that there is already a defacto kind of reasonable suspicion to stop your car.

Will being inside an AI self-driving car impact those legal stops?

If there isn’t a human driver, one might assert that the AI self-driving car should not need to stop at a sobriety checkpoint. For a roadblock of another kind, there is not necessarily that same get-out-of-jail free card.

Okay, that was interesting, what about this one. An AI self-driving car has no passengers in it. Someone wanting to buy some drugs sends the AI self-driving car to that street corner where the drug dealer hangs out. The AI self-driving car halts at the street corner. The drug buyer is on a smartphone and tells the drug dealer to go ahead and toss the drugs into the self-driving car and meanwhile remotely the drug buyer rolls down the window. The drug dealer tosses in the drugs and at the same time bitcoins are sent to the drug dealer to cover the cost of the drug buy.

The police were watching the drug dealer. They see the AI self-driving car drive away after making the drug buy. Can the police stop the AI self-driving car? If they do, and they find the drugs, is that sufficient to try and go find the buyer and bust that person?


A future of all and only AI self-driving cars is a long way off. We have time to be considering how our society might be changed by the advent of AI self-driving cars.

I’ve tried to make the case that we are still going to have traffic stops, along with stop-and-frisks and stop-and-arrests. This certainly will last as long as we also have conventional cars or at least AI self-driving cars less than a Level 5. Even once we have Level 5 AI self-driving cars, there are still many opportunities to potentially do a traffic stop.

It would be nice to think that the advent of AI self-driving cars would magically curtail crime because the use of an AI self-driving car as your “accessory to the crime” as being your getaway driver is seemingly impractical.

Nonetheless, there is still sadly opportunity to commit crimes, involving the use of AI self-driving cars, and it is as much a societal question as a systems AI question.

[Ed. Note: For reader’s interested in Dr. Eliot’s ongoing business analyses about the advent of self-driving cars, see his online Forbes column:]

Copyright 2019 Dr. Lance Eliot

This content is originally posted on AI Trends.