A hacker can make your driverless car go schizo

A researcher claims he can make your driverless car schizophrenic and paranoid using a DIY $60 (£40) device.

Jonathan Petit, a research then a fellow of University of Cork’s Computer Security Group, says he managed to use Raspberry Pi or Arduino computer and a laser, together with a couple of off-the-shelf products to make a driverless car see pedestrians, other cars and other types of obstacles where there aren’t any.

That makes the car go to a full stop or start taking evasive actions.

He says he can do this thanks to lidar, the system which uses lasers to map the full surroundings of the car and see obstacles on the road. Lidar is usually mounted to the car’s roof and, at the moment, it’s being used by Google, Lexus, Mercedes, Audi and other manufacturers on their prototype driverless cars.

“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 told IEEE spectrum. “I don’t think any of the lidar manufacturers have thought about this or tried this.”

The driverless car is seen as a potentially huge market, with many car manufacturers looking for a way to create one, most notably for the truck driving industry. This has also made hackers increasingly interested in the new technology, and recently we have seen a couple of hackers hijack a jeep in the middle of the highway.

Petit will present the paper with his research at November’s Black Hat Europe security conference.