According to a new report, a team of researchers has recently uncovered a possibility to play with the radar sensors in use by Tesla’s Autopilot system – making it “blind” to a car or obstacle up ahead on the road.
This is another hiccup on the road to autonomous driving, as the Autopilot system and self-driving aids in general have been under heavy scrutiny as of late, following the deadly crash of a Tesla Model S owner that was using the Autopilot – as the sensors were unable to “see” a white semi-trailer against a bright sky. “The worst case scenario would be that while the car is in self-driving mode and relying on the radar, the radar is obscured and fails to detect an obstacle ahead of it,” said Wenyuan Xu, professor at the University of South Carolina, the main researcher. Zhejiang University in China and Chinese security firm Qihoo 360 were also on board the research project.
The team discovered the Tesla Autopilot radar sensors are vulnerable to an attack from radio-jamming equipment – though it involves a degree of difficulty, since the researchers used a $90,000 signal generator alongside an even more expensive frequency multiplier. They were also successful in tricking the ultrasonic sensors – used for self-parking and ‘summon’ – but the cameras could not be “blinded” and the Autopilot system simply automatically shut down.