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Car Parts Thefts and AI Autonomous Cars


An AI self-driving car with its superb cameras, numerous radar and ultrasonic devices is a goldmine for car parts thieves. Credit: Getty Images

By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider 

What do manhole covers, beer kegs, and catalytic converters have in common?

 This seems like one of those crafty questions asked when interviewing for a job at a high-tech firm. 

It is admittedly a tricky question. 

The answer is that they are items that at one point or another were being stolen in large numbers. 

For manhole covers, there was a case last year in Massachusetts of a man that stole seven of them and tried to sell them for scrap metal at a salvage yard, and in some countries they are faced with a raft of such thefts. 

A few years ago, beer kegs were being stolen to the tune of 300,000 kegs a year, doing so to sell the kegs for about $50 each in steel scrap.

Currently, the United States is seeing a surge in thefts of catalytic converters. 

You might assume that the thieves are trying to sell the catalytic converter as a used part and hoping to get unsuspecting car repair shops and car owners to buy these “hot” devices as a replacement when an older one on your car is not working or gets damaged in an accident. 

Nope. 

The thieves are seeking to grab the palladium that’s in the catalytic converters.

Palladium?

Palladium is a rare metal that is silvery and white in overall color. 

It is part of the Platinum Group Metals (PGM) and has the handy properties of a low melting point and being the least dense of the PGMs.

 From a humanity perspective, the palladium in a catalytic converter is essential as it converts around 90% of the noxious gases coming out of your car’s exhaust into much less dangerous chemicals (generally producing carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and simple water vapor). Palladium is also used in fuel cells and when combined with oxygen and hydrogen is a nifty producer of electrical power, heat, and water.

As they say, palladium doesn’t grow on trees. 

You need to find it and mine it. 

Or, as the thieves would say, you need to remove it and steal it. 

Your catalytic converter is usually in the under-body of your car and sits between the exhaust pipe and the engine or your car. In Chicago, they have had thieves recently go along a block at the wee hours of the morning and one-by-one crawl underneath cars to remove and steal the catalytic converter. Another popular approach involves going into a parking lot such as at an airport and stealing the catalytic converters from the long-term parked cars.

Here’s a bit of a shocker, the value of palladium is now worth more than gold. No need to give someone a gold watch or a gold necklace, instead they should be happier to get a palladium coated gift. It is estimated that the thieves are typically getting around $200 or perhaps $400 when selling the catalytic converter palladium, depending upon the condition and how many grams are contained in the device.

 Is it difficult to steal a catalytic converter?

Sadly, no. 

With just a few tools and a few minutes, you can seemingly readily take one.

 You crawl underneath the target car and do your handiwork. There are even online videos on YouTube that show how to do this! Of course, you would not target just any car and instead would want to go after certain kinds of cars, such as ones that are easier to steal from, and that have larger amounts of palladium in the catalytic converter, and are located in an area where you would guess that you won’t get caught during the theft effort.

Car Parts Theft Is Big Business

There are tons of car parts thefts annually in the United States alone (literally, tons worth!). 

Some car parts are stolen to glean the elements within them. 

Some car parts are being taken to then supply the huge market for used car parts. Perhaps nearly 1 million car parts and car thefts are undertaken each year, though it is hard to know how many happen since the crime is not always consistently reported. If you are interested in some fascinating statistics about stolen car parts and stolen cars, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) provides online stats that are insightful on the matter.

In the case of stealing a car part and attempting to resell it, an entire black-market supports such efforts. When you go into a car repair shop to get your car fixed, and they offer to put into your car a used part, it could very well be a stolen part that they use. The car repair shop is not necessarily in on the thievery. They might be buying the used parts from seemingly reputable sources. It turns out that the supply chain of car parts is quite muddled and there is a kind of ease with which stolen car parts can appear to be legitimate used parts.

 Some believe that the emergence of blockchain might be a means to curtail such sneaky acts. 

The notion is that all car parts would be notated in a publicly available online log, accessed via the Internet, and by doing so it would make the history and lineage of the car part readily available. Anyone could figure out the status of a car part by merely consulting the blockchain.

For my article about blockchain, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/blockchain-self-driving-cars-using-p2p-distributed-ledgers-bitcoin/

 The motivation for stealing car parts is rather apparent when you think about it. 

Car parts are becoming increasingly expensive and therefore the profit to be made by selling a stolen car part is quite handsome. 

If car parts were dirt cheap, it would be difficult to make much money off stealing them. People that own cars are continually in need of getting replacement car parts, due to the wear-and-tear of an existing car part or sometimes due to the car part getting wrecked by a car accident.

I remember one car that I used to own that seemed to fall apart one-car-part at a time. 

I took my car to a small car repair shop that did quick work and was never crowded. They replaced one part that had failed due to wear-and-tear. About a month later, another car part failed. Once again, I took the car to have the part replaced. This kept happening, nearly each month, for a period of about 6 months. The car repair shop probably posted my name on their calendar in anticipation that I’d be there next month and so on.

Admittedly, it was an older car that had not been given much attention to keeping it in shape. I bought it used and knew that it was likely to someday start to come apart at the seams. Once the seams started coming undone, it was a tsunami of car parts failures and replacements. 

What a pain in the neck!

In any case, the car parts thieves are choosy about which cars they steal from and which car parts they try to steal. 

Cars that are well-sold and the most popular brands of cars tend to be the right choice for stealing car parts from, since there is a much larger market potential of the need for used parts. Another angle too is cars that tend to be involved in car accidents, which then are in need of replacement car parts.

It’s a demand and supply phenomenon. 

Parts being stolen are dictated generally by the demand exhibited via car repair shops, and in combination with the used parts marketplace and the underground marketplace.

The car part needs to have sufficient profit potential, thus the more expensive it is, the more attractive as a target to steal.

The car part needs to be relatively easy to steal. 

If it takes too long to steal it, or if the chances of getting caught are high, thieves are not going to take the risk as readily.

The car part needs to be small enough that a thief can readily cart it away and then transport it to whatever locale might be needed to dispense with it. If the car part is extremely heavy or bulky, it makes the stealing of it much harder and along with complicating a fast getaway with the car part.

The car part needs to be removable without excessive effort. 

If the thief needs a multitude of tools to try to extract the part, or if the part is welded into place, these are barriers to stealing it. Likewise, if there is a car alarm system that the car part will potentially set off when stealing the car part, that’s a no-no kind of car part to try to take.

I realize you might be thinking that it would be “better” for the car parts thieves to consider taking the entire car, rather than futzing around trying to take a particular car part itself. 

Certainly ,the stealing of the entire car would be more efficient since you would have all the car parts now available. You could either try to sell the entire car intact, or instead take apart the parts and sell those individually.

My Car Was Stolen

This reminds me of the occasion when my sports car was stolen here in Los Angeles.

I was a university professor at the time. 

I had parked my car in one of the on-campus parking lots. There wasn’t any faculty designated parking per se, and so I parked in the same parking structure as did the students, administrators, and the other faculty. Each time that I parked on-campus, I would drive throughout each parking structure, trying to find an available parking spot. It was one of those hunts for a parking spot kind of games, though I sometimes cut it close to class starting time and got into a bit of a sweat about finding an available parking stall.

One day, I parked my car in the mid-morning, getting parked in plenty of time to teach my lunchtime class. I was teaching classes throughout the day. I also was teaching an evening class. At about 9:30 p.m., I walked out to the parking structure to drive home. When I got to where my car was supposed to be parked, it wasn’t there. What? My mind raced as I thought that perhaps I had parked on a different floor and was just confused about where my car was.

I went to each floor of the parking structure and searched stridently to find my car. After covering the entire parking structure, I concluded that my car was not there. Had I perhaps parked in a different on-campus parking structure that day? No. I knew I had not. Maybe my car had been towed for some reason, perhaps I had not displayed my faculty parking tag, or my car was sloppily parked and took up more than one parking space.

I dutifully went to the campus security office. 

Had they perchance towed my car? 

No, they said they did not do so. 

They asked me what I did at the campus. When I explained that I was a professor, the office clerk made a small smirk and called over one of the campus security officers. They said they would take me over to the parking structure in one of the campus security golf-like carts and the officer would help me find my car.

Sure enough, the campus security officer drove me to the parking structure and slowly drove on each floor and past each car. Is that your car, the security officer would ask? No, I said. In fact, I was getting quite upset that this effort of slowly driving through the parking structure was taking place. I already had looked and was unable to find my car. The campus security officer insisted we would need to continue the slow poke search.

After exhausting the parking structure’s set of cars and not having seen mine, I thought that we could now start to discuss what to do about my apparently stolen car. I assumed that an all-out broadcast would take place to alert numerous police and highway patrol to be on the lookout for my car. Police helicopters would take to the skies to find my car. Squad cars would be peeling out of police stations, seeking to find my car. Okay, maybe I watch too many movies and TV shows, but I had in mind that my car was important and by-gosh somehow someone should be looking for it.

The campus security officer proceeded to drive us to another one of the parking structures. Yikes! I bitterly complained and said that this was an utter waste of time. He then explained to me that the reason they do this is that it was possible that I had merely gotten mentally mixed-up about where I had parked my car. He also indicated that when I said that I was a faculty member, the reason that the clerk had smirked, they routinely had faculty that would claim their car was gone, yet it was sitting safely in a parking structure where they had parked it earlier in the day.

They had over time gotten used to “genius” level professors that might be incredible researchers but were not able to do everyday tasks very well. This faculty were often forgetful of mundane aspects. Sure, they might be able to explain the intricacies of some arcane area of science or technology and could be steeped in grand theories. They though were at times not able to tie their own shoes and nor keep track of where they parked their car.

I endured an eternity as we drove to each of the numerous parking structures and slowly drove throughout each one. It was painful and I kept thinking that the thieves of my car were merely being handed more time to drive it further and further away. Did they target a faculty member’s car, doing so because they knew that the campus security would waste time trying to find it while letting the clock tick for the escape plan of the thieves?

Anyway, it was not in any of the parking structures. The campus security officer took my back to the main security office and I filled-in paperwork. After doing the paperwork, they said that there wasn’t anything else needed to be done. I was puzzled. 

Were the helicopters getting underway and the police squads rallying to find my car?

Turns out that there are many cars stolen each day in Los Angeles. 

I might think my car was the only one being stolen, plus it was my treasured sports car, having a great deal of personal sentiment associated with it, yet the reality was that there were lots of cars being stolen daily. Sigh.

Furthermore, the campus security officer explained that the local gangs had an initiation challenge to join their gang, consisting of stealing a car at the nearby university. The best guess was that my car had been stolen by a gang, they would joy ride in it, and then likely take it across the border to a chop shop. At the chop shop, my car would be gutted, and the car parts then put out for resale.

This news was disheartening.

One aspect too that they had asked me, adding to my frustration at the time, was whether I had left the keys in my car. 

Say what? 

No, I said, of course I didn’t do so.

I found out then that incredibly there is a preponderance of stolen cars wherein the owner left the keys in the car. 

People Dumbly Aid Thieves

The key is often one of the fobs that has the super-duper security capabilities, which automakers spent many millions of dollars perfecting. Turns out that last year, it is estimated that around 60% of all stolen cars in the United States were taken by the thief simply using the keys left inside the car.

For those of us that are technologists, it highlights how humans can undermine the best of technology by how they behave. 

In spite of the handshake security capabilities that took years to perfect and embody in a key fob, it turns out that a lot of people merely leave the fob sitting inside the car. A car thief does not need any special skills to steal such a car.

This is reminiscent of the “hacking” of people’s online accounts or their PC’s or their IoT devices. 

Many people use a password that is easily guessed. I’m sure you are as frustrated as me that many of the so-called hackings of people’s accounts are not due to any shrewd computer hacker, but instead by the simplistic and mindless act of trying obvious passwords. 

I say this is frustrating because the news often portrays these thieves as some kind of computer geniuses, when it was in actuality that the humans owning the computer accounts were lazy or ill-informed about setting better passwords.

For my article about back-door security issues, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/ai-deep-learning-backdoor-security-holes-self-driving-cars-detection-prevention/

For my article about issues with IoT devices, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/internet-of-things-iot-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

For more about stealing of cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/stealing-secrets-about-ai-self-driving-cars/ 

I tell the story of my car being stolen to point out that it was apparently more likely that it would be turned into a treasure trove of used car parts, rather than trying to sell the entire stolen car itself. 

This makes sense. Selling a stolen car is likely to be riskier and requires that someone come up with a larger bag of cash to acquire it. Yanking off the parts and selling those is less chancy.

Unbelievably, at times the value of the parts exceed the value of the car itself. In other words, the amount of money you can make by selling the stolen parts is going to be more than if you tried to sell the entire car. In that case, when you toss into the equation the troubles and risks involved in selling an intact stolen car, the notion of taking the car to a chop shop makes a lot of sense. Divide up the car and sell the parts, then find a place to discard or bury or destroy whatever might be leftover.

AI Autonomous Cars And Parts Theft

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 I often get asked at industry conferences involves whether AI self-driving cars will be subject to the stolen car parts marketplace. 

I believe so.

Allow me to elaborate.

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: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/framework-ai-self-driving-driverless-cars-big-picture/

For the levels of self-driving cars, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/richter-scale-levels-self-driving-cars/ 

For why AI Level 5 self-driving cars are like a moonshot, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/self-driving-car-mother-ai-projects-moonshot/ 

For the dangers of co-sharing the driving task, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/human-back-up-drivers-for-ai-self-driving-cars/ 

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.

For my article about the grand convergence that has led us to this moment in time, see: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/grand-convergence-explains-rise-self-driving-cars/

See my article about the ethical dilemmas facing AI self-driving cars: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/ethically-ambiguous-self-driving-cars/ 

For potential regulations about AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/assessing-federal-regulations-self-driving-cars-house-bill-passed/ 

For my predictions about AI self-driving cars for the 2020s, 2030s, and 2040s, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/gen-z-and-the-fate-of-ai-self-driving-cars/

Returning to the topic of stolen car parts, let’s consider how this might apply to the advent of AI self-driving cars.

First, let’s all agree that an AI self-driving car is still a car. 

This might seem obvious, but I assure you that a lot of people seem to think that when you add the AI aspects to a car that the car somehow transforms into a magical vehicle. It’s a car.

I mention this so that it is perhaps apparent that the same aspects of car parts being stolen are going to apply to the conventional parts of a self-driving car. If there are AI self-driving cars that have catalytic converters, and if the price of palladium remains high, you can reasonably assume that car thieves might want to steal the catalytic converter from your AI self-driving car.

So, overall, yes, AI self-driving cars face the same dangers of car parts thievery as might be the case for conventional cars. 

There are some important caveats to consider.

Why Autonomous Car Parts Theft Is Special

I mentioned earlier that I anticipate the volume of AI self-driving cars will be a gradual build-up of adoption, and we’ll continue to have conventional cars during that same time period. 

This means that there might not be many AI self-driving cars on the roadway. 

Recall that an important aspect of being a targeted car for stolen parts is that the car itself is popular. 

The more cars of a particular brand in the marketplace, the more the number of used car parts that are needed.

In the case of AI self-driving cars, the number of AI self-driving cars might be so low for the initial adoption period that it is not as worthwhile to steal a car part from an AI self-driving car as it is to steal from a conventional car that has greater popularity. The thieves tend to react based on marketplace demand. If there aren’t many AI self-driving cars out and about, there’s little incentive to steal parts from those cars.

In a similar form of logic, if the AI self-driving cars are not as readily around, they are a harder target to find and steal from. 

The nice thing about popular cars, from a car parts thievery perspective, would be that you can find those popular cars just about anywhere, parked along the street, parked in mall parking lots, and so on.

The relatively rarity of AI self-driving cars at the start, before there is a gradual shift toward AI self-driving cars and away from conventional cars, means that finding an AI self-driving car to steal parts from will be an arduous task. I’m not saying that it becomes impossible, and I am sure that if the thieves think it worthwhile, they could hunt down the locations of AI self-driving cars.

Another factor to consider about AI self-driving cars will be their likely use on a somewhat non-stop basis. 

The notion is that an AI self-driving car is more likely to be used in a ride sharing service and therefore will be used potentially around-the-clock. If you don’t need to hire a human driver, you can keep the AI driving the car all the time. The more time the self-driving car is underway, and assuming you can fill it with paying passengers, the more money you make from owning an AI self-driving car.

This brings up the facet that trying to get to a parked and motionless AI self-driving car might be harder than it seems at first glance. A conventional car is parked and motionless for most of its time on this earth. You park your conventional car in a mall, and it waits until you come back to use it. That’s not going to be the case presumably for AI self-driving cars. A self-driving car is more likely roaming to find paying passengers, rather than being parked for hours at a time.

Thus, besides the likely lesser number of AI self-driving cars on the roadway versus conventional cars, during the early stages of adoption of AI self-driving cars, even once AI self-driving cars become prevalent, they are bound to be underway most of the time. This makes stealing car parts problematic in that the car itself is a kind of moving target. Imagine trying to slide underneath an AI self-driving car that is slowly cruising the street and waiting to be hailed by a passenger, and somehow a thief extracts the catalytic converter – that’s a real magic act.

For ridesharing and AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/ridesharing-services-and-ai-self-driving-cars-notably-uber-in-or-uber-out/

For my article about the invasive curve and AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/invasive-curve-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

For the carjacking or robojacking of AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/features/robojacking-self-driving-cars-prevention-better-ai/ 

For the non-stop use of AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/non-stop-ai-self-driving-cars-truths-and-consequences/ 

For my article about the affordability aspects of AI self-driving cars, see:  https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/affordability-of-ai-self-driving-cars/

You might be wondering how many of the existing being-tested varying-levels of AI self-driving cars are having their car parts stolen? 

None that I know of.

Does that undermine the notion that there will be car parts stolen from AI self-driving cars? 

No, it does not undermine the argument.

Being Tested Autonomous Cars Are Well-Protected

As already stated, when the number of cars of a particular brand or model are low, there is little interest in trying to steal their car parts. That’s certainly the case right now with the low number of AI self-driving cars of one kind or another being trial run on roadways.

An even greater factor right now is that the AI self-driving cars that are being trial run have a quite devoted crew that keeps those AI self-driving cars in tiptop working order. Unlike a conventional car, these special testing AI self-driving cars are handled delicately and devotedly by assigned car mechanics and engineers.

These AI self-driving cars are kept parked in secure locations, and they are maintained to a meticulous threshold. The auto makers and tech firms do not want their existing tryouts of AI self-driving cars to be undermined due to parts that fail or wear out. These are spoiled cars, being provided with by-hand daily care.

A car parts thief is unlikely to find any of these AI self-driving cars, and if they did, it would be in a secure location that has a crew doting to the self-driving car when it is parked.

When an AI self-driving car is in-motion, the camera is functioning to undertake image and video stream captures and analyze the roadway around the AI self-driving car, along with the other sensors doing the same, such as the radar, the ultrasonic, the LIDAR, etc. Any car parts thief would likely get caught on camera, making their theft someone stupid, when attempting to steal from an underway AI self-driving car, though I suppose they could try to wear a mask and disguise themselves.

I’ve already pointed out that since the AI self-driving car will be in-motion most of the time, a masked thief still has little chance of stealing any of the car parts. Admittedly, once the AI self-driving car is parked and motionless, the sensors are often no longer being powered and used, which means that you could be possibly undetected when stealing parts from the car. This will be something important to consider once AI self-driving cars become prevalent.

It is anticipated that once there are a lot of AI self-driving cars in the marketplace, it might not be the case that they will all be cruising around all the time. It is suggested that there might be special areas that the AI self-driving cars go to wait for being summoned. These staging areas would resemble parking lots. The idea is that rather than an AI self-driving car driving around endlessly, which might not be very efficient, they would sit in temporary staging areas and await a request to be used.

I mention this because few of the AI self-driving car pundits have realized that we might reach a kind of saturation point of AI self-driving cars prevalence. It is admittedly a long way off in the future.

Overall, the notion is that if there is a saturation level in a given locale, it might not be prudent to have an AI self-driving car driving around and around, waiting to be put to use. The endless driving is going to cause wear-and-tear on the self-driving car, plus it will be using up whatever fuel is used by the AI self-driving car. 

As such, we might reach a point where it makes sense to have an oversupply of AI self-driving cars be staged in a temporary area until summoned.

Where Thieves Will Go

I suppose the staging area could be a place to try to steal car parts from those waiting AI self-driving cars. 

I’ll guess that by the time we have such a prevalence of AI self-driving cars, those staging areas would be well-protected and well-monitored. Seems less likely an easy target for car parts thievery.

One aspect that will potentially make AI self-driving cars an attractive target would be the specialized components included onto the self-driving car for the AI driving purposes. 

An AI self-driving car has lots of superb cameras, it has numerous radar devices, it might have LIDAR, it will have ultrasonic devices, and so on. This is exciting, especially as a goldmine for car parts theft. I can imagine the car thieves already salivating at this.

These sensory devices are an ideal target for car parts theft. They tend to be expensive, which I had mentioned earlier that the value of a car part is a crucial attraction for car parts thievery. There are many of them on each AI self-driving car, making the car target-rich. They tend to be small, meaning that you can readily steal and transport them.

The question is whether these sensors can be readily removed from an AI self-driving car or not.

On the one hand, if the sensors are well-embedded and bolted or meshed into the car, it is going to make things harder for car parts thieves to steal those car parts. Unlike the ease of taking a catalytic converter, these sensors might be arduous to extract from the self-driving car. As mentioned earlier, the longer it takes to steal a car part and the more difficult it is to steal it, the less likely the car part is as a worth-stealing car part.

Some are suggesting that we’ll have add-on kits that can convert a conventional car into becoming an AI self-driving car. If that’s the case, this is a potential gift from heaven for the car parts thieves. Presumably, an add-on kit means that you simply augment the car with these added sensors, making them more vulnerable to being taken off the car too. Easy on, easy off. It’s the easy off aspect that makes the car thieves happy.

This would also make the selling of the stolen car parts easier too. Imagine a thriving market of add-on kits for AI components of an AI self-driving car. A huge marketplace might develop. It will be hungry for these specialized car parts. The underground will work double-time to try and fulfill the demand.

For my article about add-on kits for AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/kits-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

For why AI self-driving cars won’t be an economic commodity, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/economic-commodity-debate-the-case-of-ai-self-driving-cars/

For my article about reverse engineering of AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/reverse-engineering-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

For safety aspects, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/safety-and-ai-self-driving-cars-world-safety-summit-on-autonomous-tech/

I’ve already stated in my writings and presentations that I doubt the add-on approach is going to be viable for AI self-driving cars. By this claim, I am suggesting that there won’t be a mass consumer add-on market. There could though be a car dealer marketplace of doing this after-market effort, though I doubt that will be likely either.

Does the potential lack of an AI self-driving car parts add-on market imply that the sensors on an AI self-driving car will necessarily be difficult to remove?

No, not necessarily.

Here’s why.

For an auto maker trying to maintain AI self-driving cars, they’ve got to be considering that the life of the sensors is limited, and they will break down. When the sensors need to be replaced, if they are somehow hidden and embedded within the body of the self-driving car, it will make it harder and costlier to have those sensors replaced.

I realize that the auto makers might not care about this facet and are so focused on just producing a viable AI self-driving car that they don’t care right now about the maintenance side of things. Plus, if you like conspiracy theories, you might say that it is perhaps better for the automaker to make it arduous and costly to replace the sensors, thus guaranteeing a lucrative maintenance fee after selling the AI self-driving car.

In any case, it isn’t yet clear whether it will be made easy or hard to remove the sensors from an AI self-driving car. This might differ by car maker and car model.

The same question can be asked about the computer processors in the AI self-driving car. AI self-driving cars will be chock-full of likely expensive computer processors and computer memory. These expensive and small sized components would be another potential target for car parts theft. Will these processors be so deeply embedded that it precludes much chance of car part thievery, or will they be readily accessed for maintenance purposes and therefore more prone to being stolen?  We’ll need to wait and see.

For my article about the grand convergence of tech on AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/grand-convergence-explains-rise-self-driving-cars/

For sensors such as LIDAR, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/lidar-secret-sauce-self-driving-cars/

For conspiracy theories about AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/conspiracy-theories-about-ai-self-driving-cars/

For my article about the Top 10 predictions and trends of AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-insider/top-10-ai-trends-insider-predictions-about-ai-and-ai-self-driving-cars-for-2019 

Anti-Theft Tech Could Help Reduce Thefts

One additional aspect to keep in mind will be advances in anti-theft technologies.

It could be that once we have any prevalence of AI self-driving cars that there will be new advances in car anti-theft systems and those devices will be included into AI self-driving cars. 

If so, it might make stealing car parts a near impossibility.

Imagine a scenario in which a thief attempts to carry out a car parts theft on an AI self-driving car. 

The AI might detect the effort. It could then honk the horn or take some other effort to bring attention to the car. It might also use it’s Over The Air (OTA) capabilities, usually used for pushing updates and patches into the AI system remotely via the cloud, and contact the authorities electronically to report a car parts robbery in progress.

Another futuristic possibility is the use of the V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) electronic communications that will be included into AI self-driving cars.

Normally, the V2V will be used for an AI self-driving car to share roadway info with another nearby AI self-driving car. Perhaps an AI self-driving car has detected debris in the road. It might relay this finding to other nearby AI self-driving cars. They can then each try to avoid hitting the debris, being able to proactively anticipate the debris due to the V2V warning provided.

Suppose one AI self-driving car notices that a thief is trying to steal the parts from another AI self-driving car. The observing AI self-driving car might try to honk its horn or make a scene, or it might via OTA contact the authorities, or it might try to wake-up the AI self-driving car that is the victim, doing so via sending a V2V urgent message. Assuming that the AI self-driving car was “asleep” and parked, the V2V message could awaken it, and then the “victim” self-driving could sound an alert or possibly even try to drive away.

For conspicuity and AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/conspicuity-self-driving-cars-overlooked-crucial-capability/

For my article about the OTA aspects, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/air-ota-updating-ai-self-driving-cars/

For cryptojacking of AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/cryptojacking-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

For swarm intelligence of AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/swarm-intelligence-ai-self-driving-cars-stigmergy-boids/ 

For my article about sleeping AI and self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/sleeping-ai-mechanism-self-driving-cars/

Conclusion

Will the sensors and other AI physical components be easy to steal or hard to steal? 

They are going to be attractive due to their expensive cost and small size.  Auto makers and tech firms are not likely considering the matter right now of whether those parts are able to be stolen or not. Instead, right now it’s mainly about getting them to work and produce a true AI self-driving car.

The marketplace for those devices will be slim until there is a prevalence of AI self-driving cars. 

Therefore, this is a low-chance risk for now. 

We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds.

I can just imagine in the future coming out to my vaunted AI self-driving car, which I would proudly opt to park in my driveway, doing so as a showcase for the rest of the neighborhood, and suddenly realizing that it has been stripped of its parts. 

Many of the conventional car parts might be taken, along with the AI specialized car parts. 

Darn it, struck by car thieves a second time in my life. 

Will it never end? 

I’d hope that helicopters were dispatched immediately, along with police drones, and squad cars, all searching for my stolen AI self-driving car parts. 

Get those dastardly heathens! 

Copyright 2019 Dr. Lance Eliot 

This content is originally posted on AI Trends.

[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: https://forbes.com/sites/lanceeliot/]

Source: AI Trends