EXCLUSIVE: Islamic State (ISIS) technicians are working flat out to develop a Google-style driverless car that could navigate itself into a crowded area before detonating an explosive device, a Nato security expert has warned.
ISIS' research and development department in the terror group's de facto Syrian capital, Raqqa, is believed to be producing the vehicles at the same time as US internet giant Google attempts to perfect the same technology.
If successful, the invention could prove to be a major headache for security services in Britain and throughout Europe and North America, where self-driving cars are expected to become commonplace.
Thousands of driverless cars are expected to be on Britain's roads within the next few years and there is a very real prospect jihadis could prey on the new technology to launch attacks in the UK.
Dr Jamie Shea, Nato's deputy assistant secretary general for emerging security threats, said the Islamic extremists were using their bomb making factory in Raqqa to develop the technology.
Speaking in London, he said ISIS was using its "technical expertise" to "play around" with driverless cars in a "worrying" development for the self-styled caliphate.
Dr Shea said: "We are focusing very much on…Raqqa at the moment, where ISIL [ISIS] has its bomb making factory.
"It is not just Google that is producing the autonomous car, ISIS is also trying to do the same."
The fear is that ISIS fighters could load an explosive device onto a vehicle and detonate the bomb when it arrives at its pre-determined destination.
It is not just Google that is producing the autonomous car, ISIS is also trying to do the same
Dr Jamie Shea, Nato's deputy assistant secretary general for emerging security threats
The technology would remove the need for suicide bombers and could help the death cult — also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh — cope with the dramatic drop in its numbers, which has seen its fighting force cut almost in half.
The FBI has long argued autonomous cars could be used by criminals as lethal weapons.
Volvo became the latest firm this week to announce it was trialling the technology in its vehicles.
The Swedish carmaker plans to test autonomous vehicles on London's roads from 2017, before the scheme is extended to include up to 100 vehicles the following year.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said Britons should expect to see thousands of driverless cars on the streets in the next few years.
Speaking this week he insisted the autonomous vehicles were the "future of the motoring industry", but significant safety fears still remain.
A number of incidents involving prototypes of the next-generation automobiles have left safety experts nervous about their widespread introduction in the UK.