Self-Driving Cars Can Be Hacked with a Laser Pointer and a $30 Computer

John Vibes
September 8, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Baltimore, MD Self-driving cars are predicted to take over the roads in the next ten years, and so far there have been very few complaints regarding the safety of these vehicles. Google, Apple, and other companies have tested the vehicles on the road and they have managed to stay out of accidents — aside from ones that were the fault of human drivers in other cars.

Recently, however, some security issues arose after researchers discovered how to hack self-driving cars using just a laser pointer and a Raspberry Pi computer.

Jonathan Petit of the software security company Security Innovation has recently pointed out a massive security flaw in “Lidar Sensors,” the technology self-driving cars use to see. Petit is documenting his full findings in a research paper he is currently working on.

Petit recently outlined his discovery in brief, saying a laser and a device like a Raspberry Pi or Arduino computer could trick the sensors in the car into believing there are objects, cars, or other people in the road — making it extremely vulnerable to car hackers that would want to disrupt a vehicle or cause an accident.

If the car is tricked into believing the terrain around it is different than it actually is, this can create obvious problems and cause the car to go off the road, stop suddenly, or make other erratic movements.

“The only tricky part was to be synchronised, to fire the signal back at the Lidar at the right time, then the Lidar thought that there was clearly an object there,Petit said.

“I can spoof thousands of objects and basically carry out a denial-of-service attack on the tracking system so it’s not able to track real objects,” he added.

A simple security flaw like this is fixable according to Petit, however, this problem could set self-driving car makers back another few years. Petit is expected to share his research and some of his suggested solutions at the Black Hat Conference this fall.

This article (Self-Driving Cars Can Be Hacked with a Laser Pointer and a $30 Computer) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to John Vibes and Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Image credit: webweisend media. If you spot a typo, email

John Vibes joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in October of 2014. His  topics of interest include agorism, anarchism, consciousness, the Drug War, and spirituality. Born in Philadelphia, he currently resides in Maryland. Learn more about Vibes here!

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