Skip to main content

#designfail - Driverless cars

news #design

The whole world is watching the progress of driverless cars with bated breath.

Years upon years of research and development has gone into creating them, yet something seemingly inconsequential has recently caused our driverless dreams to crash-land yet again.

After already overcoming a wealth of engineering and security challenges (most of them extremely complex) it appears a simple sticker could be the car’s downfall.

Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered that stickers made on a home printer can confuse driverless car systems, so that they incorrectly read road signs. If a hacker gains access to the visual recognition software within the car, they will be able to create simple changes to road signs that will cause the car to mis-read them.

There are two systems that decipher everything a driverless car ‘sees’ – an identifier and a classifier. The car then abides by road laws in its reaction to what it encounters. However, while a human eye can determine if a road sign has been defaced, a car can be tricked. Just a few well-placed stickers can make the car think that a stop sign is actually a speed limit sign.

The dangers of this are obvious – cars driving straight through stop signs, or stopping in the middle of the road.

While researchers are hoping the study will help manufacturers build better defence systems in the cars, it’s left the rest of us wondering if we’ll actually want one anyway.