A two-inch piece of tape could change everything.
One of the biggest concerns regarding modern vehicles is the potential for hacking. Unlike vehicles from just over a decade ago, the latest cars and trucks are quickly becoming computers on four wheels, and Tesla is one of the prime examples. That's not necessarily a good thing. A new study conducted by hackers at McAfee Advanced Threat Research reveals a troubling discovery. It turns out these hackers managed to trick Tesla's first-generation Autopilot into accelerating from 35 mph to 85 mph.
This was done by fooling the vehicle's Mobile EyeQ3 camera system by doing one very simple thing: altering a speed limit road sign by placing a two-inch piece of tape directly on it. The camera reads the sign as 85 instead of 35. The specific vehicles being testing, a 2016 Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X, immediately increased their speeds by 50 mph. You can see this happen in the included demonstration video.
"The ultimate finding here is that we were able to achieve the original goal. By making a tiny sticker-based modification to our speed limit sign, we were able to cause a targeted misclassification of the MobilEye camera on a Tesla and use it to cause the vehicle to autonomously speed up to 85 mph when reading a 35-mph sign," the cybersecurity lab stated in a blog post.
"For safety reasons, the video demonstration shows the speed start to spike and TACC accelerate on its way to 85, but given our test conditions, we apply the brakes well before it reaches target speed. It is worth noting that this is seemingly only possible on the first implementation of TACC when the driver double taps the lever, engaging TACC. If the misclassification is successful, the autopilot engages 100% of the time."
McAfee also confirmed it revealed its findings to both Tesla and MobilEye last year. Both "indicated interest and were grateful for the research but have not expressed any current plans to address the issue on the existing platform."
As "smart" technology continues to roll out, sometimes even the simplest things are not taken into account and there could be disastrous consequences.