A group of researchers from the cybersecurity firm McAfee fooled a Tesla Model X and Model S’ Autopilots into breaking the speed limit, and it seems that the only thing it takes is a small piece of tape.
Tesla vehicles are equipped with Mobileye EyeQ3 camera systems which read the speed limit signs and help with setting the accurate speed. However, much to our dismay, they are not perfect.
In order to fool the Tesla’s eyes, researchers Steve Povolny and Shivangee Trivedi put a 2-inch black electrical tape on a 35 mph speed sign. The tape made the “3” look like an “8”.
Their motive was to modify the speed limit sign in such a way that a human would be able to understand it, but an automated system would get confused.
After sticking the tape, the researchers rode the Tesla on the highway. As you'd imagine, the 2016 model Model X and the Model S misread the speed limit as 85 mph and accelerated by 50 mph over the limit.
On their blog post, Povolny and Trivedi wrote, “Even to a trained eye, this hardly looks suspicious or malicious, and many who saw it didn’t realize the sign had been altered at all. This tiny piece of sticker was all it took to make the Mobileye camera’s top prediction for the sign to be 85 mph.”
Here is a quick video of their experiment:
This hack only works on Teslas that have the Hardware Pack 1 camera system which was installed in vehicles that were bought between 2014 and 2016. Still, McAfee states that more than 40 million vehicles feature this system, which is not a good thing.
With numerous companies hopping on to the autonomous driving wagon, it is impossible not to worry about such vulnerabilities. Tesla is always quick to offer fixes, however, they haven’t commented on the issue yet.