Smooth Criminals Beware: Robocar Is Here (And It Will Find You)

By: Bridget Clerkin July 17, 2017
Dubai, the Middle Eastern Emirate, is rolling out a robotic police car.
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Many a futuristic film would have us believe that we’re heading for some dystopian state, where faceless drones are always watching, and the unfeeling machines deliver the purest version of justice, using their perfectly unbiased programming to capture true criminals.

But movie producers would do well to imagine a different depiction if they hope to keep piquing our imaginations. That robot-driven scenario is unfolding in real life.

Dubai already has a robocop to safeguard its mall, and now the cutting-edge emirate is getting a robocar to patrol its streets. The development is part of the region’s plan to have such machines represent 25% of its police force by 2030.

The vehicle is called the O-R3 (one thing movies still have over reality: catchier names for their robots), and it’s no bigger than a child’s electric toy car.

But its capabilities—and potential impact—are huge.

The car is equipped with a 360-degree camera that will be used to scan the streets for “wanted criminals and undesirables,” according to Gulf News. Though not specified, it’s likely this function will be fulfilled using facial recognition technology. Any information gathered will be sent back to its human counterparts who don the police badge.

And if the little patrol car spots an especially slippery crook who eludes its ability to make chase on the streets, it can call in the air force.

The O-R3 will be accompanied by an onboard drone, which can be sent up into the air to get a bird's-eye view of any potential fleeing criminals, relaying their whereabouts in real time to the humans left at the station.

Developed by Singapore-based OTSAW Digital, the prototype will only be used for “low-level order enforcement tasks,” the company said.

Still, it's easy to imagine a world where its responsibilities are expanded. The bot will never get sleepy on the job, won’t complain about long hours, and has no inherent biases to cloud its decision-making.

Let's just hope that its all-seeing cameras never catch a clip from The Terminator to give it any bad ideas.

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