Hackers Trick Tesla Cars into Speeding Up by 50 MPH with a Piece of Tape

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the new Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. The new Tesla factory is the former NUMMI plant. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Researchers at McAfee reportedly used a 2-inch strip of tape on a 35-mph speed limit sign to trick two Tesla vehicles into misreading the signs as 85-mph and accelerating 50 mph to match the modified sign.

The MIT Tech Review reports that two security researchers tricked two 2016 Tesla vehicles into accelerating 50 mph past the speed limit by using tape on speed limit signs to fool the vehicle’s camera systems into misreading them.

McAfee researchers Steve Povolny and Shivangee Trivedi stuck two inches of black tape onto a 35-mph speed sign, elongating the middle line in the “3” figure. The researchers then drove a 2016 Tesla Model X towards the sign with the vehicles cruise control enabled.

Cruise control is part of Tesla’s self-driving “Autopilot” system which is supposed to control the vehicle’s speed and alter it depending on road signs, the distance between other cars, and other factors. As the Tesla vehicles approached the altered road sign, both vehicles misread the sigh as 85-mph and accelerated by 50-mph.

McAfee provided its research to Tesla and MobilEye EyeQ3, the firm that provides Tesla’s 2016 model vehicles with camera systems. The MIT Tech Review contacted Tesla about the research, but Tesla declined to comment on it but did say that it would not be fixing any of the issues discovered by the McAfee researchers, similarly, MobilEye EyeQ3 dismissed the study.

MobilEye EyeQ3 stated that the modified sign could be misread by a human and that Tesla cameras were not designed for fully autonomous driving. The McAfee researchers told MIT Tech Review that the responses were worrying as many 2016 Tesla vehicles are still on the roads.

“We are not trying to spread fear and say that if you drive this car, it will accelerate into through a barrier, or to sensationalize it,” he said. “The reason we are doing this research is we’re really trying to raise awareness for both consumers and vendors of the types of flaws that are possible.”

Breitbart News recently reported that an Apple engineer was killed when his Tesla Model X vehicle collided with a concrete barrier along the freeway, but there is now evidence that he had previously complained about the vehicle’s autopilot system malfunctioning on that same stretch of road. The engineer’s complaints were released in a trove of documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently.

The crash, which killed Walter Huang, 38, in March 2018 took place near Mountain View, California, and is being investigated by the NTSB. The board is also investigating a crash in Delray Beach, Florida, that happened approximately one year later in which another driver, Jeremy Banner, was killed.

The released documents show that Huang told his wife that the Autopilot system in his Tesla vehicle had previously veered his SUV toward the same barrier on U.S. 101 near Mountain View, the same area where he would later crash. In response to the NTSB’s questions relating to the crash involving Huang, the family attorney stated: “Walter said the car would veer toward the barrier in the mornings when he went to work.”

Breitbart News has reported on crashes involving Tesla cars since 2017, further information about these crashes can be found here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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