Published: Fri, February 21, 2020
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Researchers Trick Tesla Cars’ Automated Systems Into Speeding by Altering Traffic Signs

Researchers Trick Tesla Cars’ Automated Systems Into Speeding by Altering Traffic Signs

McAfee says it disclosed the study findings to both Tesla and Mobileye previous year, and both companies expressed interest in the research findings.

In a blog post detailing the team's test, the researchers stated that the goal of the project was to expose deficiencies within the Tesla MobilEye camera system, which is used to read traffic signs and adjust what the vehicle does accordingly.

The experiment by McAfee is created to identify potential security problems and flaws that the auto industry has not kept up with.

Hackers have figured out a way to fool Tesla's self-driving Autopilot system, and all it took was a piece of tape.

The next step for the researchers was to reduce the number of stickers to determine at which point they failed to cause a misclassification.

The MIT Tech Review reports that two security researchers tricked two 2016 Tesla vehicles into accelerating 50 miles per hour past the speed limit by using tape on speed limit signs to fool the vehicle's camera systems into misreading them.

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McAfee has been testing vulnerabilities in Tesla vehicles over the past 18 months, and has said the speed limit sign trick does not pose a serious risk to drivers. The change caused the vehicle to read the limit as 85mph (137km/h), and its cruise control system automatically accelerated, according to research released by McAfee on Wednesday. Last April, researchers from Tencent disclosed that they used similar stickers on street signs, causing a Tesla auto to dangerously swerve from one lane to another.

However, the same Mobileye camera is used by other automakers for their advanced driver assists systems (ADAS), including General Motors, Audi, BMW, Volvo and Nissan, so the problem may not be isolated to older Tesla models. The McAfee researchers told MIT Tech Review that the responses were worrying as many 2016 Tesla vehicles are still on the roads.

"Autonomous vehicle technology will not rely on sensing alone, but will also be supported by various other technologies and data, such as crowdsourced mapping, to ensure the reliability of the information received from the camera sensors and offer more robust redundancies and safety", the Mobileye spokesperson said in a statement. However, the latest technical advances in this area bring us a unique and compelling picture of some of the capabilities we might expect to see "down the road". A similar result was achieved in the 2016 Tesla Model S.

Currently, Tesla emphasizes that its Autopilot tools are not meant to make the auto fully autonomous and that drivers must always keep their hands on the wheel.

A year ago the tech billionaire claimed the company would have a "feature-complete full self-driving" vehicle by the end of 2019. "It is your responsibility to stay alert, drive safely, and be in control of the vehicle at all times".

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