Self-driving cars are barely on the road yet, but designers apparently think they'll be the future of police work. At the Los Angeles Car Show's annual design challenge, car companies were asked to envision the highway patrol vehicle of 2025. As The New York Times reports, several of the concepts were autonomous, designed either to be completely unmanned or to help officers monitor the area. BMW's E-Patrol "Human-Drone Pursuit Vehicle," for example, would include both "unicycle-like" robot vehicles and a flying drone that could be deployed by police to disable cars with an electromagnetic pulse. In the same vein, Honda's speculative CHP Drone Squad includes two- and four-wheeled autonomous vehicles. The more conservative Subaru merely imagined a self-driving car that would work in water, and GM created a concept that would run on an updated version of the Chevrolet Volt's hybrid propulsion system.
As one can tell from the concept art gallery, the designs are a bit tongue-in-cheek, built more for Hollywood than a real police force. Even so, they show that autonomous vehicles have very much entered the public imagination. And, if anything, the action-movie feel of most of them is a little unsettling, especially in light of the very real debates over militarization of the police force.