Autonomous vehicles can be fooled to ‘see’ nonexistent obstacles

Cars that use multiple sensor systems both work better and are safer – each system can serve as a check on the others – but no system is immune from attack.

Unfortunately, these systems are not foolproof. Camera-based perception systems can be tricked simply by putting stickers on traffic signs to completely change their meaning.

Our work, from the RobustNet Research Group at the University of Michigan with computer scientist Qi Alfred Chen from UC Irvine and colleagues from the SPQR lab, has shown that the LiDAR-based perception system can be comprised, too.

By strategically spoofing the LiDAR sensor signals, the attack is able to fool the vehicle’s LiDAR-based perception system into “seeing” a nonexistent obstacle. If this happens, a vehicle could cause a crash by blocking traffic or braking abruptly.