Self-driving cars are being heralded as the wave of the future, but there have been many hiccups along the way. The newest is activists showing how autonomous vehicles are easy to hack with a simple traffic cone.
As we’ve discussed before, self-driving cars aren’t actually that great at driving, and there are a number of conditions that can cause them to fail safe and stop in the middle of the road. Activist group Safe Street Rebel is exploiting this vulnerability by “coning” Waymo and Cruise vehicles in San Francisco. By placing a traffic cone on the vehicle’s hood in the way of the sensors and cameras used to navigate the streets, the vehicles are rendered inoperable.
Safe Street Rebel is asking for an end to self-driving vehicle companies privatizing the benefits and socializing the costs of the development of this technology. These anti-autonomous vehicle demonstrations are the latest in a series of protests by San Francisco residents against the experiments run by tech giants with little to no public oversight. Privatization of transportation like the Google buses or shared scooter services have also drawn the ire of locals over the years.
As hackers, we know too well that corporations and actual people often don’t have the same goals. Sometimes a little creative mischief can go a long way toward rebalancing the scales. If you think “self-driving” is a deceptive term for these vehicles, you’re not alone, and we’ve seen some Open Source driver assistance efforts that could be more community-friendly than the commercial offerings.