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Transportation Hardware Hacking It's funny.  Laugh.

Fooling a Mercedes Into Autonomous Driving With a Soda Can 163

Posted by Soulskill
from the most-dangerous-nap-you'll-ever-take dept.
New submitter Petrut Malaescu writes: Last year Mercedes introduced an intelligent Lane Assist system to its S-class, which is cataloged as a Level 1 "Function-specific Automation" system. In other words, hands and feet must always be on the controls. But a clever driver discovered that all it takes to keep the car in Lane Assist mode is a soda can taped to the steering wheel. It's enough to trigger the steering wheel sensor that's supposed to detect the driver's hands. Obviously, it's not a good idea to try this on a busy highway.
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Fooling a Mercedes Into Autonomous Driving With a Soda Can

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  • This must have been discovered by a Benz mechanic. Soda cans are far too proletariat for S-class owners.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Except for all the driver services that use S-class.

    • The actual article says "soda bottle" rather than can... perhaps it was Dom rather than Tab...

    • by sinij (911942)
      Poster above is absolutely correct, I have my butler tape monocles and glasses of chardonnay to my S-class steering wheel.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 01, 2014 @02:40PM (#47584047)

    Ferris Bueller tricked a car into "autonomous" mode by putting a cement block on the accelerator--a sensor that is used to detect the pressure from a foot.

    Sensors can be deliberately fooled with inanimate objects. News at 11.

    • Who's to say they're not actually alive? At least a brick will never threaten to hurt you and, in fact, cannot speak.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Sensors can be deliberately fooled with inanimate objects. Film at 11.

      FTFY

  • What exactly is this automating? The whole point of cruise control is to not require your feet on the pedals.

    My Volvo has distance sensing cruise control. It won't hold the lane for me but it doesn't turn off cruise when I take my hands off the wheel, either.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The Mercedes system drives the car for you, under heavy traffic conditions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AihC5flC-38

      • by AvitarX (172628)

        That video claims to have nearly the same sensors, but doesn't seem be at all like the system mentioned.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Its not cruise control, it's Lane Assist. It keeps you in your lane, essentially steering for you.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      What exactly is this automating? The whole point of cruise control is to not require your feet on the pedals.

      My Volvo has distance sensing cruise control. It won't hold the lane for me but it doesn't turn off cruise when I take my hands off the wheel, either.

      It's really more about how a modern car can actually "drive itself" in a limited way. It' snot a full autonomous car, but with what we have right now today, it's actually impressive.

      Then again, I suspect he got the idea from a Hyundai commercial [gizmodo.com] where a

    • Active Lane Assist is where the car corrects the steering to keep it in the lane. In the video in the article he looks like he's just going straight, but if you watch the wheel closely it will turn occasionally to keep the car in the lane. The driver never has his hands on the wheel. The Mercedes will use radar to sense and maintain the distance to the vehicle in front (not the best around motorcycles, or when going around turns), and lane assist will keep the car in the lane as well.

  • Obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crow (16139) on Friday August 01, 2014 @02:44PM (#47584087) Homepage Journal

    They've had adaptive cruise control for a long time now that will slow you down so that you don't rear-end anyone in front of you. In theory, you can set it at your favorite speed, and then ignore the foot pedals until you reach your exit. I haven't used it, so I don't know if it handles stop-and-go traffic jams or things like that.

    Now they have automatic lane centering. The car uses cameras to read the paint stripes and keep it centered in the lane. Because it's not a general system for autonomous driving (and the obvious liability if it crashes), it shuts off if you let go of the steering wheel.

    Combine the two, and you have fully autonomous highway driving under regular conditions. You just have to fool the sensor, and sensors are easy to fool.

    What's interesting is to learn what conditions it won't handle.

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      Combine the two, and you have fully autonomous highway driving under regular conditions. You just have to fool the sensor, and sensors are easy to fool.

      Yeah, but I'd be worried that the cruise control would punt the car into a corner at a rate at which the lane centering couldn't compensate. You really need a bit more smarts for simple autonomous driving scenarios.

      • by PRMan (959735)
        Actually, I have the adaptive cruise control without the lane keeping and it knows to slow down when cornering.
        • Because it sees the corner coming or because it detects you turning the steering wheel?

          • by powerlord (28156)

            since he said "it slows down when cornering" it could be that a sensor detects the centripetal force of the cornering?

        • by redback (15527)

          sounds annoying.

          nowhere I would drive with cruise on has corners tight enough to slow down for

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      conditions it won't handle
      - changing lanes
      - passing
      - letting other drivers in
      - avoiding debris on the road
      - entering/leaving highway
      - dealing with construction zones
      - avoiding reckless drivers
      - lane selection

      Lane keeping and distance keeping are only a small part of driving.

      • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

        by boristdog (133725) on Friday August 01, 2014 @03:07PM (#47584297)

        Unfortunately, lane keeping and distance keeping are skills that elude a lot of drivers.

      • by PRMan (959735)
        Actually, it handles letting other drivers in as long as they don't cut you off dangerously. It's actually quite good as slowing for reckless drivers as well (say they cut across 3 lanes in front of you, the car will slow down appropriately).
        • by jklovanc (1603149)

          Actually, it handles letting other drivers in as long as they don't cut you off dangerously.

          Bumper to bumper traffic?

      • by crow (16139)

        So most of those won't be a problem when driving between cities. It's probably not great for daily commuters, but it's probably a lot safer than a sleepy driver on a rural highway.

        • by jklovanc (1603149)

          Things that this can not handle in a rural setting;
          - lack of lane marker on right
          - animals on road
          - people turning left from the opposite direction
          - people entering from side roads
          - intersections
          - distinguishing between lane markers and tar strips
          - lack of center line
          - debris,gravel on road
          - potholes
          - speed changes due to corners
          - narrow bridges

          Rural roads are even harder to deal with than freeways.

          • by crow (16139)

            I'm more thinking rural freeways like you have in the West. As long as you check for construction first and don't get unlucky with a deer, you're probably fine unless the paint goes wrong (as may be the case in post-construction sites).

            Actually, there already are automatic braking systems for things like deer, and I would guess that that would be included.

            One big point here is that we're a lot closer to autonomous driving that most people think.

          • by lgw (121541)

            These systems are actually quite good at some of your list - you might surprised. What they can't do at all is predict the insanity of other drivers. Like the guy waiting to turn left who will just sit there until you get dangerously close, and then cross in front of you (why do so many people do that?). It's early days yet, but I fully expect software to pass average human driving skill in my lifetime.

            • by jklovanc (1603149)

              These systems are actually quite good at some of your list - you might surprised.

              Remember the subject of this conversation; lane following and interval maintenance. While that assist driving they are very far from autonomous driving. Lane following is simple in that it uses two painted lines to figure out where the lane is and steers to stay between the lines. It does not figure out if the line curve s ahead and there needs to be a speed reduction to deal with it. Interval maintenance is simple because all it does is puts on the brakes if the interval gets below a minimum. Say you appro

              • by lgw (121541)

                . Lane following is simple in that it uses two painted lines to figure out where the lane is and steers to stay between the lines.

                My car does much better than that. I've been surprised at how little visual information it needs to determine where the lane is. I does sometimes get confused by zebra crossings, however. It doesn't brake for curves, but it does look ahead and understand curves - if the car "ahead" of me is actually in a different lane, for example, it figures that out and doesn't panic (the first gen system from 10 years ago had problems with that).

                Say you approaching a narrow bridge. The bridge has to be identified. How can you identify a bridge if all the information you have is the position of the left side of the lane, the position of the right side of the lane and the distance to the vehicle in front of you?

                My car has a variety of sensors, including a camera built into the rearv

                • by jklovanc (1603149)

                  My car does much better than that.

                  What else does you car do?

                  but it does look ahead and understand curves

                  What does it do when it "understands a curve"?

                  but the raw data is already available.

                  The fact that the raw data is there and the computer having the ability to interpret that raw data in any meaningful way is oceans apart. Comparing lane following to object identification is like comparing the game of x's and o's to chess. The complexity of the problems are several orders of magnitude apart.

    • "fully autonomous highway driving under regular conditions."

      I would argue it very much is not that. Autonomous driving is so so so much more than just not ramming into the car in front of you and not changing lanes. If it is 100% unable to react to what is going on to the sides and behind it is just slightly better cruise control.

    • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PRMan (959735) on Friday August 01, 2014 @03:09PM (#47584303)

      "They've had adaptive cruise control for a long time now that will slow you down so that you don't rear-end anyone in front of you. In theory, you can set it at your favorite speed, and then ignore the foot pedals until you reach your exit. I haven't used it, so I don't know if it handles stop-and-go traffic jams or things like that."

      I have a 2014 CLA and it works. I have gotten on a freeway, set it to 80 and never touched the pedals for over 50 miles.

      As far as what it won't handle, my car won't handle extreme braking, getting cut off badly or a car that is stopped completely (doesn't see it at all). Other than that, even in slow and go driving it works perfectly (if it stops completely you have to tap the gas to go again).

      • Re:Obvious (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday August 01, 2014 @03:20PM (#47584421) Homepage Journal

        or a car that is stopped completely (doesn't see it at all)

        Ouch. This is rare, but I've seen it.

        I'd be afraid if I was on a 50-mile stretch without having to think about speed my mind would wander, and I wouldn't notice this stopped car.

        I'm the guy who never uses cruise control unless it's flat and empty for as far as the eye can see, though, so maybe I'm atypical.

        • exactly that, it seems rather dangerous to be on 'standby' for the better part of an hour, and still need to quickly to a deer or something wandering into the freeway.

        • by StikyPad (445176)

          I'm the guy who never uses cruise control unless it's flat and empty for as far as the eye can see

          I don't think you're atypical at all, but... why? CC guards against unintended acceleration, as well as unintended deceleration (a phenomenon I call "tidal lock" or "flocking" with the cars next to us, depending how nerdy my conversation partner is.) Unintentional acceleration risks a ticket, while unintentional deceleration causes traffic jams (not to mention adding time to your trip). With CC, I can spend

    • This actually isn't that big of a leap from a technical difficulty level. A pair of Carnegie Mellon researchers drove across the country in 1995 using a forward camera based system [cmu.edu]. 98.2% of the trip was autonomous. The non-autonomous parts of the NHAA drive are the same which would be needed under this approach.
    • What's interesting is to learn what conditions it won't handle.

      The post-mortems may shed some light on that.

    • Pretty much any of the ones that would actually constitute autonomy, seems like.

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      @Now they have automatic lane centering. The car uses cameras to read the paint stripes and keep it centered in the lane."

      I already see the next article:

      Youngsters 'hack' the street by spray painting lanes into the abyss to fool Mecedes S cars.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      What's interesting is to learn what conditions it won't handle.

      When there are poor or no lane markers, especially when there's no double yellow in a two-lane, two-way local highway. Or when construction's shifted the lanes away from their original positions and the old lane markers haven't been erased so cleanly. Or when there are periodic potholes the size of half-basketballs in the most-used tire lanes (tire lanes being the path your car's tires take). Or when the lane is both narrow with inches to spare on either side, and shifts suddenly, and there's a H2 up ahead

    • by Andrio (2580551)

      Adaptive cruise control + lane assist = poor man's self driving car :)

  • Boo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday (582209) on Friday August 01, 2014 @02:45PM (#47584093)
    Cars are generally not designed to be resistant to 'hacking' by their owner/operators, and should not be. Yes, you can drive without a seatbelt if you snip the little blue wire. You can disconnect your airbags. You can cause your tires to explode just by letting out most of the air and driving on the freeway.

    Presenting this as some sort of coup fosters the notion that he system ought to be idiot-proof. No sudo rm -fR / for you! We'll put a thousand annoying and ultimately useless obstacles in the way to doing any little thing!

    Don't blame the car for not protecting itself from you.

    • Re:Boo (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Friday August 01, 2014 @02:54PM (#47584185) Journal

      I've driven over 800 miles across six months on a tire that was completely flat, on the front wheels of a front wheel drive car, and then put air in it and driven off. It wasn't a run-flat, and wasn't inflated between. It was a Dunlop Signature Sport stock dealer tire (never buy these! They suck!).

      I drove from Baltimore to DC and back with a rear tire flat the whole time (a Goodyear Assurance TripleTred, something actually useful), and then put air in it when I noticed it was flat. That's like 300 miles in one day.

      I had a tire explode on me once. It wasn't low, and hadn't been thusly abused; it had about 12,000 miles on it. I didn't realize it had exploded; I felt the car start to go thump-thump-thump and knew one of the tires probably had gone flat or something, so pulled off the expressway and found four pieces of tire loosely held together by some sort of nylon mesh wrapped round my wheel. Apparently my car doesn't go spinning out of control when the front passenger tire explodes at 80mph, either. I fucking love this car.

      As far as I can tell, tires just blow up when they feel like it. Ridiculous abuse hasn't failed my tires, but normal driving with 35-40psi in a 50psi rated tire has.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I drove from Baltimore to DC and back with a rear tire flat the whole time (a Goodyear Assurance TripleTred, something actually useful), and then put air in it when I noticed it was flat.

        How do you know how long it was "flat" before you noticed it?

        • My TPMS had been alarming at me, but I ignored it. It turns out I knocked a nail out of the tire when pulling out of the driveway, causing it to rapidly deflate. I assumed it was around 28PSI and not critical.

      • by cpotoso (606303)
        I once put 70 psi on a tire rated for 45 (and designed to be inflated at 24 for normal ops.). Only noticed that a few days later (hey the car is really bumpy, mother said). Never had any other issue :)
        • by timeOday (582209)
          It is better to err on the side of over-inflation. The centrifugal forces of high-speed driving are pretty extreme (even 100 mph) and you'd have to over-inflate a LOT to replicate them, so they'll take a lot before bursting from pressure alone. The problem with under-inflation is the tire is racked by vibrations that cause extreme forces, and also cause it to overheat.

          Here is a cool page [desser.com], evidently 225 mph at 20 psi below the optimum is a bad idea.

          • by cpotoso (606303)
            Let's see... a tire with a radius of ~0.3 m, in a car traveling at 100 mph ( 45 m/s) experiences a maximum centripetal acceleration of ~6700 m/s^2). A 1 in^2*0.5 in piece of rubber (assuming density to be ~ 1 g/cm^3) experiences a "centrifugal foce" of ONLY ~4.7 pounds! That is only 4.7 psi. So over-inflating by 20 psi MAY BE A PROBLEM.
            • by timeOday (582209)
              Well I must admit, I calculated PSI using Goodyear's figures from my link, which explicitly states the tread weight, and assuming a width of 9" and I got... 4.7 psi.

              The forces are 4x at twice the speed, so you'd have to go a little over 200 mph to generate an extra 20 psi.

              So I must agree, 20 psi over-inflation is quite bad, don't do that.

        • My tires are rated for 50 and I run them about 5 below. The car suggests 32 for load, as this will keep normal tires from ballooning (high spot in the middle, accelerated tread wear). My tires retain shape with or without load, so this is not a problem; they perform better with a more round profile.
      • by Tapewolf (1639955)

        As far as I can tell, tires just blow up when they feel like it. Ridiculous abuse hasn't failed my tires, but normal driving with 35-40psi in a 50psi rated tire has.

        ...fifty pounds each didn't seem to help with the cornering, so I went back a few hours later and told him I wanted to try seventy-five. He shook his head nervously. "Not me," he said, handing me the air-hose. Here. They're your tires, you do it."

        "What's wrong?" I asked. "You think they can't take seventy-five?"

        He nodded, moving away as I stooped to deal with the left front. "You're damn right," he said. "Those tires want twenty-eight in the front and thirty-two in the rear. Fifty's dangerous, but s

        • If you have tires rated to handle 100PSI without fault, you don't have $80 tires.

          Lorry tires are run at 125PSI fairly often. They're built that way. They're also large, handle long-distance driving fine, and cost $2000+.

          The high pressure helps with puncture resistance and braking. Not so sure about cornering; it's not a single-track vehicle, and they're not hilariously cambered for lapping track. It's a road vehicle for driving on normal highway at proscribed speeds.

          • by Tapewolf (1639955)

            If you have tires rated to handle 100PSI without fault, you don't have $80 tires.

            Adjusting for inflation it's more like $460 in present-day money - one reason I added the publication year after the citation. Even so, I doubt stock tires on a 1971 Cadillac were rated that hight. Of course, how much of that was actually autobiographical and how much of it is sheer fiction is open to debate.

      • I drove from Baltimore to DC and back with a rear tire flat the whole time (a Goodyear Assurance TripleTred, something actually useful), and then put air in it when I noticed it was flat.

        You can drive from Baltimore to DC and back without noticing that you have a flat tire?

        I've driven over 800 miles across six months on a tire that was completely flat

        You never notice the tires when you're getting into or out of a car? What the hell?

        I didn't realize it had exploded

        I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.

        As far as I can tell, tires just blow up when they feel like it.

        How do you know that? I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that you did not inspect the tire to see what kind of condition it was in before it blew, and probably not at any point for months before that.

        • by TheSync (5291)

          You can drive from Baltimore to DC and back without noticing that you have a flat tire?

          Actually I have done precisely that, but it was a rear tire on a front-wheel drive. Only noticed a problem when listening to AM radio and hearing a "click-click-click" when going at low speeds. That was the nail in my tire hitting the road and shorting out the static building up from the tire rubbing.

        • The tire that blew hadn't been subjected to abuse. I replaced the ones that had been abused with better tires, because I wanted an upgrade; I hated the stock tires. Got rid of the one I'd ridden flat in the transaction.

          It was, at the time, fully inflated and in good condition. My TPMS wasn't alarming at me. The tire just blew, and the car started going thud-thud-thud-thud while driving; I assumed I had a flat tire, and found instead what looked like it may have once been a tire. TPMS is marketed as

    • Your comment has enlightened me.

      I've resolved to take all American drivers out of my sudoers file.

    • by WoOS (28173)

      Or to say it in a different way:

      The hands-on detection on the steering wheel is there for a reason. The reason is that drivers might not read the manual telling them about all the dangers of letting the car drive without human supervision. Reading the manual is not something the car manufacturer can force people to do.

      But by manipulating the hands-on detection the driver shows that he had understood the car's restrictions but willingly circumvented it. If there is an accident, it will be thus the driver who

  • by creimer (824291) on Friday August 01, 2014 @02:49PM (#47584139) Homepage
    My older brother used to drive around with an opened beer can between his legs in the 1970's. I wonder why he never thought to duct tape the beer can to the steering wheel and drink from a straw.
  • by tiberus (258517) on Friday August 01, 2014 @02:51PM (#47584159)

    "This is, without a doubt, a really stupid thing to actually try. So don't."

    Hmm, wow. Nope the really stupid idea is posting a story on the InterWeb about a really stupid idea and warning us that it's "a really stupid idea". Road & Track should be ashamed that many Slashdoters are now searching E-Bay, CarMax and the trades for an S-Class to try this out in or texting their friends (hopefully not while driving to see them) with S-Class' to try this out. Responsible media, right! Telling geeks about a hack, is like giving crack to a junkie. Tomorrow's lead, dozens die recreating S-Class hack.

    Oh, yeah, please PM me your findings.

    • Responsible media, right! Telling geeks about a hack, is like giving crack to a junkie. Tomorrow's lead, dozens die recreating S-Class hack.

      And thus is the human gene pool improved by some small amount.

    • Yeah, there's going to be like, 3907823789 deads tomorrow because of that. :)
  • So instead of linking to the original Jalopnik article, you post a copy on Road and Track?

  • by purplie (610402) on Friday August 01, 2014 @04:27PM (#47585059)

    "Pseudo-autonomy" is where the driver is expected to be alert and ready to take over. Therefore,

    Autonomous car is to Chauffeur
    as
    Pseudo-autonomous car is to Student Driver

    Ever chaperoned a student driver? Nerve-wracking, and harder than just driving the car yourself. Forget it.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      A "pseudo-autonomous" car will probably never fail the basic operations on a road with regular markings and road signs, do everything by the book and pay full attention all around it all the time and it'll never panic, fumble or road rage. I think it will very quickly lull you into a false security where you're wondering why exactly you're babysitting this car because it's driving far more consistent and correct than you would.

      The problem is when something unexpected happens and the car fails to recognize i

  • A Darwin Award.

  • by marciot (598356) on Friday August 01, 2014 @07:43PM (#47586359)

    Yes, a soda can can; that's why it a soda can and not a soda can't!

  • If you watch the navigation screen you see the guy approaching a an exit and the video stopping right there. What happened there?

    A few observations more.

    1. Considerable effort went into the work around. A redundant device was prepared as cold standby.
    2. Why was the driver listening to Bavarian (Bavaria is the B in BMW) radio?

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