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6 Mission-critical info for UST professionals Platform one Fans of the 1987 movie RoboCop might be dismayed to learn that it is more likely that officer Alex Murphy’s car will be robotic than he will – at least if a new development from Ford comes to fruition (writes Peter Donaldson). In January the US Patent Office published an application from the company for an autonomous police vehicle that can recognise and deal with traffic violations committed by another vehicle, which might itself be autonomous or at least wirelessly connected. Having detected a suspect vehicle, the police car would set off in pursuit, establish comms with the vehicle and tell it that it is violating some law. The suspect vehicle would then transmit either a response indicating that it is in autonomous mode, or an image of the human driver’s licence. The police car would then send another message to issue a warning or a ticket, for example, and then indicate that the offender is free to leave. The patent includes a flowchart that separates the police car’s actions into obtaining an indication of a violation, giving chase and remotely executing various actions. In the first phase, the police car would aim a directional sensor at the suspect vehicle, then wirelessly receive a signal from a remote device indicating that the suspect has violated one or more traffic laws. To give chase it would track the suspect, controlling its own speed and direction accordingly. For the remote execution phase, it would capture an image of the suspect vehicle’s licence plate, then communicate with it as above. The police car’s controller would consist of modules including memory with a record of drivers and/or vehicles within a region, a database of traffic laws and the operational software. This would be linked to a processor that also controls the wireless comms, an I/O interface via which an officer on board could take over control of the car, a vehicle control interface and a suite of sensors. Driverless cars On the tail of law-breakers Traffic violations could in future be punished via autonomous police cars if Ford’s research pays off April/May 2018 | Unmanned Systems Technology