A homemade laser can kill a self-driving car

accidentcarinwashingtondcA homemade laser can disable the systems that allow self driving cars to see.

According to security expert Jonathan Petit a modified, low-cost laser could create ghostlike objects in the path of autonomous cars which causes the cars to slowed down to avoid hitting them.

If enough phantom objects were created, the car would stop completely.

Petit, principal boffin at software company Security Innovation, used a laser, similar to a mass-market laser pen and added a pulse generator – something that can be created using a low-cost computer such as the Raspberry Pi.

It cost $60 and created phantom cars, walls and pedestrians to fool the “eyes” of self-drive cars – known as lidars.  Lidars are a combination of light and radar and illuminate a target with a laser and analysing the reflected light, to measure distance and map out where objects are.

Petit claimed he could 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.

He could also take echoes of fake cars and put them at any location I want,” he added.

Petit targeted the lidars produced by IBEO Lux but was keen to point out that it is not a problem just for them.

He said that none of the lidar manufacturers thought about the problem.

His paper, written while he was a research fellow at the University of Cork’s computer security group, will be presented at the Black Hat Europe conference in November.