Cybersecurity expert Jonathan Petit claims that it’s possible to confuse a self-driving car with just $43 and a laser pointer, according to a report from Business Insider.
“Today’s self-driving cars rely on spinning sensors called lidar that can cost more than $10,000 each. But it took Jonathan Petit just $43 and a laser pointer to confuse and defeat them,” proclaimed Business Insider’s Danielle Muoio. “When Petit attacked the lidar, he became one of the first researchers to show how easy it is to hack self-driving cars’ sensors. He was able to trick a sensor into thinking objects were there when they weren’t, and vice versa.”
“Anybody can go online and get access to this, buy it really quickly, and just assemble it, and there you go, you have a device that can spoof lidar,” said Petit. “So here, you can think that the potential consequence of an attack like this could be ‘I tried to crash you into a vehicle ahead of you because I’m telling you there is no object here. So I’m making [the sensors] blind, and now your system thinks it’s free.”
Business Insider also claimed that the exploit could be used to swerve the car by tricking its security systems, consequently throwing it off the road or moving it to a quiet place convenient for criminals.
“So now you’ve changed the path of the vehicle by doing this, that’s also an impact, which means that then the risk could be ‘I’m sending you to small street to stop you and rob you or steal the car,'” Petit explained. “I indeed have the unfortunate feeling that they look at security as an add-on, which is a problem. You should use this opportunity to have security by design and not doing it after thought.”
Earlier this month, Uber acknowledged that their current self-driving cars are a danger to bicycles just weeks after the California DMV demanded that the company stop testing their cars on the road without first seeking a permit.
In March, a Google self-driving car collided with a bus, crumpling the car, however no passengers in either vehicle were injured.