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Self-driving vehicles can be confused by defaced street signs

By Ian Chee - on 7 Aug 2017, 12:02pm

Self-driving vehicles can be confused by defaced street signs

While there is always the threat of a self-driving car getting hacked, it doesn’t take a particularly tech savvy person to endanger a self-driving vehicle and its occupants. Researchers at the University of Washington are more concerned about defaced street signs by simple vandalism throwing autonomous vehicles’ image recognition off.

This looks nothing like a speed limit, but it's enough to make an autonomous vehicle think so. <br> Image source: University of Washington via Engadget.

All a person needs to know is the way such vehicles classifies the objects they see, and using easily printable stickers to alter street signs. And it doesn’t take much to make the computer vision algorithm to believe a sign means something else. The Stop sign above is defaced sufficiently to make a self-driving vehicle think it is a speed limit. This, as you can imagine, leads to countless possible problems like a car stopping abruptly in a high-speed highway or one going against traffic because a defaced sign made it take an illegal turn into a one-way street.

There are ways to counteract this. Ideally it would be to further improve the AI that drives the autonomous vehicle into understanding contextual cues, like the impossibility of a Stop sign in the middle of a highway. Other, more expensive and improbably ways include making signs using anti-stick material or placing them in out-of-reach areas, but the latter would likely also affect visibility.

Either way, it does go to show that it’s a long way ahead before we can have a vehicle drive us to our destinations on its own.

Source: ArXiv.org via Engadget.