Tesla Model S tricked into accelerating 50 mph by security researchers
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Two researchers at computer security company McAfee tricked a Tesla into speeding up by 50 mph with a piece of tape.
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The researchers, Steve Povolny and Shivangee Trivedi, used a technique called model hacking, which studies how bad actors can exploit artificial intelligence to expose vulnerabilities "in an industry that is evolving technology at a pace that security has not kept up with," their study notes.
Povolny and Trivedi exposed one such AI vulnerability in Tesla's older version of its Model S car, which uses a smart camera called MobilEye that uses machine learning to detect speed-limit signs to determine how fast a car should be driving in specific areas. The model's autopilot feature called Speed Assist works with MobilEye "immediately" set the car's automated cruise control speed.
The researchers taped a small piece of black electrical tape to a 35 mph speed-limit sign to make the number "3" slightly resemble an "8." As a result, when they drove past the sign in the Model S, the car's smart MobileEye camera misread the speed limit, causing the Speed Assist feature to make the vehicle accelerate well over 35 mph to 85 mph.
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"Even to a trained eye, this hardly looks suspicious or malicious, and many who saw it didn’t realize the sign had been altered at all. This tiny piece of sticker was all it took to make the MobilEye camera’s top prediction for the sign to be 85 mph," Povolny and Trivedi wrote.
The researchers said newer versions of the Model S do not use MobilEye or speed-limit sign sensors. They also note that their test was "highly academic" by adversary standards but added that their finding still "represents some of the most important work we as an industry can focus on to get ahead of the [AI vulnurability] problem."
Tesla did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.
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Tesla and MobileEye expressed "interest" in McAfee's research "and were grateful for the research but have not expressed any current plans to address the issue on the existing platform. MobileEye did indicate that the more recent version(s) of the camera system address these use cases," the study says.