Self-Driving Cars Can Be Tricked With Defaced Street Signs

Angelica Greene
August 7, 2017

However, it's still an invention that has its issues. People, automobile experts, and governments across the globe are anxious about the possibility of a remote hack where a smart auto is hijacked to create on-street chaos. However it seems that tricking a self-driving auto is apparently pretty easier and relatively low-tech, and that is by simply defacing a street sign.

The researchers found that strategically-placed stickers are enough to fool the image-processing software in autonomous cars, according to auto and Driver.

But while the human eye can usually identify a sign that may have been tampered with (providing it's not been swapped out entirely), a few well placed stickers can trick the driverless auto systems. If an attacker learns how the auto classifies incoming objects, they can easily generate a sticker to throw the car's sensor off. This caused the machine vision, from a number of angles and distances, to classify a stop sign as a speed limit sign 100 percent of the time in tests.

This basically can make a common sociopath who wants to see cars burn given an easy access tool. These systems can be sensitive to malicious perturbations-small, precisely crafted changes to their inputs-that can cause them to misbehave in unexpected and potentially unsafe ways.

What could cause more chaos, however, would be a more gentle approach - imagine a few tactically-changed road signs at major locations, leading to city-wide gridlock.

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There are ways to fight this.

While it is still unknown how this loophole affects fully autonomous self-driving cars, the team involved in the research suggests using contextual information to verify if a sign is authentic.

Some vehicles on our roads, such as Tesla's Model S electric cars, are already equipped with sign recognition software, although the vehicles are not yet programmed to react to the signs. Or a SPEED LIMIT warning on a back road. We'd add that local governments could also install signs that use an anti-stick material, or put them out of reach. Digital signs especially made for auto recognition and other counter-measures against this.

Ultimately, self-driving cars may need to develop the very human ability of identifying variations in an object's appearance.

Researchers have long known that tinkering with what a computer sees can lead to incorrect results.

Other reports by GizPress

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