Harmless-Looking Graffiti Could Be a Targeted Attack on Self-Driving Cars

You've probably seen some road signs with graffiti scrawled on them around Barrington. Stop signs are particularly popular targets for vandalism, because of how easy it is to create messages like "STOP hate" or "Don't STOP believing."

Other than being a nuisance for the town, though, graffiti is harmless. Or is it?

In their August 2017 study, researchers from several major universities across the U.S. determined that by strategically placing stickers resembling graffiti on a Stop sign, they could get a self-driving car to mistake it for a Speed Limit 45 sign.

In a self-driving car where you are relying entirely on the machine to drive, mistaking a Stop sign for a Speed Limit sign could have deadly consequences.

Of course, there are no fully autonomous vehicles on the road yet. New Ford models only include semi-autonomous features, like adaptive cruise control and Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection. And not all graffiti will cause self-driving cars to malfunction—only those created using a specific algorithm. The results of this study will help automakers like Ford build more fool-proof autonomous cars that can't be tricked.

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