Autonomous vehicles Technology

Hacking a Self-Driving Vehicle

Jeff Kowalsky/Corbis

Jeff Kowalsky/Corbis

I guess we had to expect this and I suppose it is better to be aware of this problem early on, but it seems that it is a rather simple procedure to trick the lidar sensors on a vehicle.

“I can take echoes of a fake car and put them at any location I want,” says Jonathan Petit, Principal Scientist at Security Innovation, a software security company. “And I can do the same with a pedestrian or a wall.”

Using such a system, attackers could trick a self-driving car into thinking something is directly ahead of it, thus forcing it to slow down. Or they could overwhelm it with so many spurious signals that the car would not move at all for fear of hitting phantom obstacles.

In a paper written while he was a research fellow in the University of Cork’s Computer Security Group and due to be presented at the Black Hat Europe security conference in November, Petit describes a simple setup he designed using a low-power laser and a pulse generator. “It’s kind of a laser pointer, really. And you don’t need the pulse generator when you do the attack,” he says. “You can easily do it with a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino. It’s really off the shelf.”

When hacking first began it was a good thing . Not any more.


  • It might even be easier to “trick” lidar into seeing thing differently. I know that a simple mirror ball (remember the disco music era?) can play havoc on any lidar based system. Here is a product that claims to reduce the reflectivity of a vehicle with their special coating. I can’t vouch for their claims, but it is interesting;

  • Brent, unless a car was covered entirely with Veil, this would have little or no effect. Although Veil has success in reducing the footprint by defracting laser what would be more interesting is a car equipped with a laser jamming device. Although we have not heard of any reports of this ever happening (yet) as the police laser guns have to be first entered into the systems database to come up with a proper jamming code sequence, it may happen as some point that some hacker comes up with a device like this to jam one of these new cars.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: