It turns out autonomous cars are hackable, too, and they can be tricked into seeing things that don’t exist. According to The Guardian, hackers can mess with the lidar in these cars to change what they see. It’s not particularly difficult either, requiring only a gadget similar to a laser pointer that costs all of $60 to purchase.
The hacker can be on any side of the car and use the device to confuse the lidar into detecting echoes of fake objects. Jonathan Petit of the University of Cork’s Computer Security Group wrote a paper demonstrating how easy this is to do with off-the-shelf parts and a Raspberry Pi or Arduino. It’s like a denial of service (DDoS) attack on the car’s tracking system.
The attack will force the car to stop as it will think there are objects everywhere and that it is unsafe to move. Lidar is currently used by companies like Google, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and others on their prototypes so this is no small issue. Petit’s paper will be presented at November’s Black Hat Europe security conference. It will be the first opportunity for autonomous technology developers to get a good look at the hack and figure out how they’re going to stop this one.