Security researcher Jonathan Petit was able to easily hack the laser ranging systems most autonomous cars use to sense surrounding objects with a simple setup costing around $60, according to engineering research publication IEEE Spectrum.
The low-cost system consists of asmall laser and a pulse generator and can fool a car’s lidar radar system into thinking an obstacle is directly ahead of or behind it, forcing it to slow down. They could also flood the car’s system with signals so it would jam and not move at all.
“I can spoof thousands of objects and basically carry out a denial of service attack on the tracking system so it’s not able to track real objects,” Petit said.
The computer Petit used to jam a lidar sensor was specifically programmed to jam one sensor, so it could not be used on a vast array of vehicles, however Petit’s intention was not to expose the lidar systems as having weaknesses but to address an issue that many lidar companies had yet to consider.
“The point of my work is not to say that IBEO has a poor product. I don’t think any of the lidar manufacturers have thought about this or tried this,” he said.
Petit says his findings prove the special awareness sensors on current autonomous vehicle concepts can be easily fooled, and that it isn’t too early to start considering a solution to such problems.