Image credit – University of Washington

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Carmakers have been hard at work developing technology for self-driving cars and this includes sensors and algorithms to detect obstacles around them so that cars know when to brake, how to avoid them, and so on. However it seems that tricking a self-driving car is apparently pretty easier and relatively low-tech, and that is by simply defacing a street sign.

In a report from Car and Driver (via WIRED), it seems that researchers at the University of Washington have found out that they can easily confuse self-driving cars by defacing street signs. All they had to do was put stickers onto road signs and convinced the car’s image-detecting algorithm that what they were seeing was a speed limit sign instead of a stop sign.

The dangers here are pretty obvious since it means that you could trick cars into speeding up when they’re supposed to slow down, or stopping when they should be driving, leading to possible accidents. The scary thing is that some of the images weren’t modified too greatly, but yet were interpreted as something else entirely.

For example the researchers printed a Right Turn sign with some slight modifications, and overlaid it on top of an actual Right Turn sign which caused the car’s algorithm to read it as a Speed Limit 45 sign. The researchers have since suggested that using contextual information is one way to overcome this problem, such as how a 65 mph sign in a suburb, or a stop sign on a highway would not make sense.

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