Elizabeth E. Joh
When the police suspect a driver is breaking the law, the Fourth Amendment allows them to stop the car. This means compelling the driver to bring the car to a halt. Sometimes a car stop will lead to further investigation, searches, and even arrests. What will these stops look like when people no longer drive their cars and police officers no longer pursue them by driving their own? Autonomous cars are not yet commonplace, but soon they will be. Yet little attention has been paid to how autonomous cars will change policing. The issue matters enormously because today the police spend a lot of time stopping cars. For instance, the most common contact most adults in the United States have with the police takes the form of a traffic stop. Vehicles equipped with artificial intelligence and connected both to the internet and one another may be subject to automated stops. The issue is already being discussed as a theoretical possibility and as a desirable policing tool. This essay considers the law and policy issues that will arise when car seizures become remote and automated.