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Altered speed limit signs can trick Tesla’s Autopilot into high speeds

The changes are easily viewable to real drivers but confuse the automated systems

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Photo (c) JasonDoiy - Getty Images
Although some autonomous vehicle technologies are currently being used in the U.S., these systems are still in the testing phase and need to be fine-tuned before being rolled out en masse. That point was driven home earlier this week when a team of white-hat hackers from McAfee Advanced Threat Research fooled Tesla’s Autopilot into breaking the speed limit by slightly altering road signs.

In the video below, the researchers demonstrated how they were able to fool the autonomous system by simply using a small piece of black tape to extend a portion of the “3” on the 35 mph sign. 

Newer vehicles may not be susceptible

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 test findings showed that these kinds of alterations worked to trick earlier versions of Tesla’s systems (Tesla hardware pack 1, mobilEye version EyeQ3), but one vehicle using the latest 2020 version of MobilEye was able to spot the changes. The team commended Tesla’s engineers for improving the company’s code, but the researchers say the findings can still be useful for the larger automotive industry.

“In order to drive success in this key industry and shift the perception that machine learning systems are secure, we need to accelerate discussions and awareness of the problems and steer the direction and development of next-generation technologies,” the team concluded.

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