Tesla stock falls after researchers expose an AI vulnerability

Tesla stock fell nearly 6% in a hurry today after a vulnerability in the Model S’s artificial intelligence was exposed. The AI vulnerability is especially noteworthy because some bull theses for Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) stock imply that the automaker could monetize its autonomous driving technology.

AI vulnerability reported in Tesla Model S

Security researchers with McAfee issued a report in which  they talked about hacking the AI in a Model S using a piece of tape. They used a technique known as “model hacking,” which allows hackers to exploit artificial intelligence and expose vulnerabilities. The researchers were able to trick an older Model S car, which was equipped with Mobileye technology, into speeding up by 50 miles per hour.

According to their study, the Tesla’s AI vulnerability was based on Mobileye’s smart camera, which is designed to read speed-limit signs to decide how fast the car should go on a particular road. Tesla’s Autopilot self-driving technology integrates with the smart camera to set the speed of the Model S’s cruise control.

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How the hack worked

To get the Model S to speed up, McAfee researchers placed a piece of electrical tape on a 35 mph speed-limit sign, making the 3 look a little more like an 8. The tape was placed to extend the middle stem of the 3, making it extend out to the edges of the top and bottom stems of the 3.

When the Model S equipped with Mobileye technology drove past the sign, it sped up, thinking the speed limit was 85 miles per hour. To see the Tesla’s AI vulnerability in action, you can check out McAfee’s video here:

It’s important to note that while their report highlighted Tesla, it also mentioned other vehicles that are equipped with Mobileye technology. They include GM’s Supercruise technology, the Cadillac CT6 manufactured from 2017 to 2019, Nissan’s ProPilot system, Audi’s Traffic Jam Pilot system, the 2019 Aldi A8, and Volvo’s Pilot Assist 1, 2, and 3.

Additionally, newer Tesla Model S cars may not have this AI vulnerability because they aren’t as reliant on sensors to read speed-limit signs.

McAfee said Tesla and Mobileye expressed “interest” in their research and were “grateful” for it. However, neither company offered details on plans to address the AI vulnerability in the affected Model S sedans. Mobileye said the newer versions of its camera system address the issue.