Curses, foiled again! Like, almost literally, foiled.
A group of white hat hackers recently “hacked” a Tesla’s Autopilot function, and forced it to swerve into the opposite lane. And they did this using only white stickers.
Essentially, the Tesla Autopilot uses camera technology to keep an eye on, among other things, the while lane markers on the road. So the hackers put white stickers on the road that looked similar, and essentially created a fake lane that swerved, even if the real lane didn’t, and ultimately made the car head over into the opposing lane.
Being white hat hackers, they did this in a test, and not in the real world, and no one was hurt.
The prospects of such a hack is pretty scary, of course. Making any car suddenly swerve over into the opposing lane, and potentially, opposing traffic, is pretty critical. The hack isn’t complicated, it doesn’t actually require access to the car’s systems, and the materials for it are easy to find.
But at the same time, it shouldn’t make people too scared. First of all, yes, the hack is easy to replicate on paper, but getting it right might be tricky. And it is hardly clandestine, a group of people putting stickers on a freeway tend to stand out most places. And, as Tesla stated to the press, the Autopilot can always be overridden by the driver, simply by tapping the brakes or turning the steering wheel.
It does underline some of the trickiness of creating a full level 5 autonomous car. Tesla’s stressing that the driver of one of their cars should always be aware and prepared to take over control of the car places it square in a Level 2 or 3. Yes, on paper, we have the technology to build an autonomous car, but getting all of that hardware and software to work together, and work in real-world driving scenarios, is pretty complex.