Researchers Trick Tesla into Speeding

Feb. 20, 2020

A small piece of tape was all it took for a Tesla self-driving program to misread a speed limit sign and think it should be going 85 mph instead of 35 mph.

Feb. 20, 2020—How do self-driving cars determine the speed limit? In some cases, they just look at a road sign. Therein lies a potential for trickery, according to one report.

An 18-month study conducted by McAfee researchers found that Tesla's cameras could be tricked into misreading a speed limit sign. As Vox reports, the researchers stuck a bit of tape onto the middle of a "3," which caused the Tesla Automatic Cruise Control system to read it as 85 instead of 35.

What's more is that the OEM's control over the software prevented the researchers from finding a specific fix.

“This system is completely proprietary (i.e. Black Box), we are unable to specify exactly why the order of operations is essential,” Steve Povolny, head of McAfee Advanced Threat Research, told Vox's Recode in an email.

The errors were only found in 2014 to 2016 Tesla models with an EyeQ3 camera. Limited testing in a 2020 model with an updated camera didn't present the same problems, according to the story.