Unmanned vehicles rely on a number of sensors to be able to move without hitting anything. These include the GPS, laser range finders (LIDAR), cameras, inertial measurement units (IMU), wheel sensors, and more. But these sensors can be tricked to run your driverless car off the road, into walls, and, in the case of one van, over highway medians.
These hacks are scary when you consider how advanced Google’s driverless cars are. Many believe these are the future; that they’ll take us from place to place without our intervention. But if you can hack into the computers that exist in cars today, the extensive systems of unmanned cars will be ripe for “experimentation.”
The types of attacks that can derail the sensors vary but aren’t always very sophisticated. For example, LIDAR sensors use a rotating mirror to check for potential obstacles and weather changes in the area. It scans the area with a laser, and anything that reflects that laser is then picked up by the mirror. The sensor analyzes that data and decides what is in front of it.