Researchers mislead Tesla Autopilot to drive against traffic

Researchers mislead Tesla Autopilot to drive against traffic

Researchers have discovered a simple attack with which a Tesla car may, in certain circumstances, automatically drive against the traffic.

The proof-of-concept does not hack into the onboard computing system, but uses small, inconspicuous stickers that mislead the Enhanced Autopilot of a Model S75. The stickers know how to get that system to detect and track a change in the current trajectory, writes Ars Technica.

To make the attack possible, three stickers are placed on the ground. Those stickers are virtually invisible to drivers, but Tesla’s Autopilot’s machine learning algorithms detect them as a line indicating that the track is moving to the left. As a result, the Autopilot also steered in that direction. And so the car ends up on the wrong side of the road.

The researchers also write that the Autopilot has various measures in place to prevent incorrect detections. The measures include the position of history of jobs and the size and distance of various objects.

Other findings

However, the report also contains other findings. It shows how it was possible to use a game pad to remotely control a car via a vulnerability in the Autopilot ECU. This vulnerability was closed in the 2018.24 firmware release of the company.

Furthermore, it is possible to tamper with the auto wiper system, to turn on the windscreen wipers when it is not raining. Tesla’s system uses various cameras that enter data into the artificial intelligence network to determine whether the windscreen wipers need to be switched on.

The researchers discovered that it is not difficult to deceive the function into thinking that there is a rule, even if that is not the case. This is only possible if the images are fed directly to the system. Ultimately, it may also be possible for attackers to show a “hostile image” on roadside signs or other cars, to achieve the same thing.

Reaction Tesla

Tesla has since responded to the findings. In doing so, the company states, among other things, that it is not a realistic concern that the Autopilot system or the windscreen wipers will behave differently from what they have to behave due to physical changes to the environment. “A driver can easily override the Autopilot system by using the steering wheel or brakes, and should always be prepared to do so. The windscreen wipers can always be operated by hand.”

This news article was automatically translated from Dutch to give a head start. All news articles after September 1, 2019 are written in native English and NOT translated. All our background stories are written in native English as well. For more information read our launch article.