Autonomous Vehicles are Being Tricked by Manipulated Traffic Signs

Michigan Car Accident Attorneys

A developing threat to autonomous vehicles has demanded more attention from engineers recently. Graffiti and stickers partially covering traffic signs, or re-imaging signs in some cases, is being seen to confuse autonomous vehicles and causing them to read the signs wrong. According to DailyMail, a study conducted by the University of Washington concluded that slight variations to signs, or signs that have been manipulated, can cause artificial intelligence (AI) systems (the technology that drives autonomous vehicles) to malfunction. 

In one of the studies, the words ‘love’ and ‘hate were placed on a stop sign above and below the word ‘STOP’. After doing this, the researchers reported that the smart vehicle misread the sign as a ‘speed limit 45’ sign. The researchers tried another experiment by copying a right hand turn arrow that mimicked the real sign, but they slightly altered the color of the arrow. The color variation caused the AI system to mistake the right turn sign for a stop sign. 

The experiments were intended to point out that the AI systems found in these autonomous vehicles can be easily deceived by slight alterations to traffic signs. Even signs with a minimal amount of graffiti that would otherwise be legible to humans can potentially cause a smart vehicle to ignore it or misread it. The researchers hope that by conducting this study automakers will be made aware of this issue, and they hope automakers will figure out ways to program defense mechanisms inside the AI technology to prevent such cases from occurring. The fear with this issue is that unless automakers can program AI systems to detect signs despite graffiti-ridden, hackers can potentially manipulate signs to cause automobile accidents. The researchers stated that both experiments did not include any special resources, “just need access to a color printer and a camera.” Anyone who has access to these two things can manipulate traffic signs to do harm to the general public. It is essential that automakers work toward amending these issues within artificial intelligence systems and mitigate risks facing the public.

Credit  Becky Stern

DailyMail also reports that in addition to manipulated traffic signs confusing autonomous vehicles, other growing fears related to autonomous cars include hackers being able to gain access to personal information through a vehicle's AI system or steal a car through key-less entry. Martin Callanan, United Kingdom’s appointed Minister of Transport, weighed in on the issue stating, “we need to make sure that the designs of the vehicles in the first place are completely cyber secure so that people can't break into them, they can't steal them and more importantly they can't hack them to potentially cause accidents.”

Autonomous technology is groundbreaking innovation that will have a very positive impact on the way individuals transport, yet there is still progress to be made. This study conducted by the University of Washington is very important and identifies a tremendous problem facing self navigating technology. The value of this study is that it brings this issue to light during what still is the early stages of autonomous vehicle development. Automakers must be aware of this issue, as well as other potential dangers facing AI systems, so they may develop programs and defense mechanisms for the safety of citizens and the general public.


Issues facing autonomous technology are becoming more prevalent as the future of self-driving vehicles approaches. Yet, until the majority of society does shift toward autonomous vehicle transportation, the most important risk facing drivers is human error and the threat of a car accident. Have you been involved in an automobile accident? Call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC at 844.4MI.FIRM. for a free consultation.

The Impact of Autonomous Cars on the US Economy

There has been continuous buzz about self-driving cars over the past few years, with successful tests and disastrous accidents alike, being reported in the news. There is no doubt that such a ground-breaking invention will change transportation norms throughout the United States, just as Henry Ford’s automobiles forever changed the way to get around the country.

In fact, Wired reports autonomous vehicles are expected to add $7 trillion to the U.S. economy over the next 35 years, based on data from Intel and research company Strategy Analytics. This is no small number, considering just robotic cars alone could add $2 trillion to the nation's economy by 2050, not even taking into account the current jobs and businesses that will be affected financially. To put these numbers into perspective, $1 trillion could buy about 40 million new cars, according to Kiplinger. But what makes up this enormous number?

Michigan Self Driving Car Lawyer

Self-Driving Cars and Jobs

Autonomous cars are predicted to positively influence the economy in the coming years, but their impact will be spread unevenly across sectors. Companies like Google and GM who have invested in making this technology a reality, will see the most money. Then, for the average Joe, the industries that will likely see a rise in job demands include data analysis, IT, and mechanics. Just like our smart phones and credit cards, autonomous cars collect data on a driver's habits, which in turn creates jobs for humans who need to sort and analyze this data. Intel reports jobs in information technology (IT), though they will see a shift from actual discovery of information to the management of machines finding information, will almost double in intensity. Additionally, the number of miles driven is expected to rise, increasing the need for cars, self-driving or otherwise, to be repaired by mechanics. 

Distracted Driver Accident Lawyer

On the other hand, there will also be a decline in jobs, especially for people working in the service industries. Jobs like food delivery and taxi services may no longer be needed with the use of self-driving cars. This brings into effect the concept that Intel and Strategy Analytics call "The Passenger Economy," an idea which places economic and societal value on pilotless vehicles. Essentially, why hire humans to do a job that cars can do on their own? While they profit either way, this is a question that companies like Uber will have to face when replacing human drivers with company vehicles. 

It should also be noted that self-driving cars may create jobs that are still unknown. After all, with new technologies come new jobs the market previously did not anticipate. On the flip side, new technologies could also make jobs that currently exist obsolete. No matter which sectors see an increase or decline in job security, the fact remains that the American economy will still receive an estimated $7 trillion economic boost (or even even bigger-no one can put an exact number on the future!) Just like the Model-T helped restructure city spaces and bring the suburbs into existence, autonomous vehicles have the ability to transform job markets. There are endless possibilities for economic reform.

Autonomous Car Regulations

Michigan Self Driving Car Ethics Lawyer

Though all the glory of creating thousands of new jobs and boosting the economy sounds appealing, it does not happen without the technology meeting all safety standards first. Which is why, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is not counting their chickens before their eggs hatch. The NHTSA has released the Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles, a document which, "outlines best practices for the safe design, development and testing of automated vehicles prior to commercial sale or operation on public roads." Included in this document is a 15-point safety assessment that requires manufacturers to meet objectives such as operational design, post-crash response, privacy, and cybersecurity before their cars can go to market. Considering that 94% of automobile crashes are due to human error, there is definitely room for technology to advance driver safety. Hopefully, if all autonomous vehicle manufacturers can meet the standards set by the NHTSA, this will be a step in the right direction to saving lives. 

The Future of Self-Driving Cars

What does all this mean for people who are willing to give up their spot behind the wheel and let the car drive itself? (That is a scary thought for a lot of people!) Well, most people want more proof that these cars won't crash and will safely deliver them to their destination before they surrender the wheel. That is why companies who create autonomous car technology need to be regulated to ensure absolute safety in their products and so that consumers are not just paying for the newest trend in transportation. Put simply, this technology needs to save lives and be safer than the transportation methods we already have. Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute said to Consumer Reports that “there’s no way that we as a society would accept self-driving cars that cause the same number of fatalities as humans.” 

Autonomous Car Crash Lawyer

In 2015, there were roughly 35,000 traffic deaths in the United States. Future autonomous vehicles must allow for more safety if they are to replace human drivers. People also need to remember that transportation technology takes years of planning before it can be used in everyday lives, and that for now, only people can drive cars. Testing allows room for development and improvement, but overall “we expect machines to be better than us,” as Pratt said.

Until it's proven that autonomous vehicles are safer than human-operated vehicles, humans need to be careful when driving on the road today. While we may one day be able to sleep while a car drives us around, we have to make sure that for now, we don't fall asleep behind the wheel! Sleepy driving, distracted driving, and drunk driving are bad human habits that can lead to serious injuries and death in the event of a car crash. By following the rules of the road and maintaining good driving habits, people can protect themselves from being involved in fatal car accidents. 

At the end of the day, it is impossible to plan the future or to predict how large of an impact autonomous vehicles will have on the economy or auto law. What we do know is that self-driving cars will add jobs, take away jobs, and, based on how well they are regulated, even save lives. 


Self-driving cars are growing closer to reality than we think due to the rapid development of technology. However, today, we still rely on people to drive vehicles, and as such, following the rules of the road is the best way to stay safe and to avoid motor vehicle accidents. If you or someone you know has been in involved in an auto accident, please contact The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free consultation.

Tesla Cars May Self-Drive Sleeping Owners in 2017

Autonomous vehicle technology isn't going anywhere. In fact, more and more companies are researching and testing self-driving technology. Back in May of 2015, The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC blog introduced its readers to the Google Self-Driving Cars, which were a platoon of self-driving cars being tested on public roads in Mountain View, California. And just two weeks ago, we informed readers about sighting of GM's autonomous Chevy Bolt around San Francisco. High end sports cars, to affordable American car companies, to the company responsible for the world's most used search engine, everyone is getting into the autonomous car game. Last month, Elon Musk, the CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors and the CEO/CTO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), gave a TED Talk in which he discussed Tesla's goal for implementing self-driving technology. 

Michigan Tesla Car Crash Lawyer

In an exchange between Musk and TED owner Chris Anderson, Musk says, "I think we're still on track for being able to go cross-country from LA to New York by the end of the year, fully autonomous." Anderson seeks clarification by asking, "OK, so by the end of the year, you're saying, someone's going to sit in a Tesla without touching the steering wheel, tap in "New York," off it goes...Won't ever have to touch the wheel — by the end of 2017." Musk confidently tells Anderson, "Yeah. Essentially, November or December of this year, we should be able to go all the way from a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York, no controls touched at any point during the entire journey."

According to BGR, what makes Musk's statement so impressive is that the driver-less cross-country journey he thinks the Tesla vehicles will be capable of are not set to "a static route, which is to say that the Tesla vehicle will be able to adjust its route in real-time based on traffic patterns. What's more, Mush said that the vehicle would even be able to handle a change in destination on the fly." Musk says, "...certainly once you enter a highway, to go anywhere on the highway system in a given country. So it's not sort of limited to LA to New York. We could change it and make it Seattle-Florida, that day, in real time. So you were going from LA to New York. Now go from LA to Toronto."

Self-Driving Car Crash Lawyer

While Tesla's goal to "not have the driver touch the wheel by the end of 2017," is impressive, even more astonishing is Musk's ambition to allow drivers to "be able to buy one of your cars and literally just take the hands off the wheel and go to sleep and wake up and find that they've arrived," in two years time.

Musk made a counterpoint to his own idea by saying, "So the real trick of it is not how do you make it work say 99.9 percent of the time, because, like, if a car crashes one in a thousand times, then you're probably still not going to be comfortable falling asleep...but if you say it's perhaps — the car is unlikely to crash in a hundred lifetimes, or a thousand lifetimes, then people are like, OK, wow, if I were to live a thousand lives, I would still most likely never experience a crash, then that's probably OK."

Tesla Semi-truck

As if fully autonomous cars that drivers can sleep in weren't a tall enough order, Musk also plans to announce an electric Tesla Semi-truck in September, which he claims, "actually can out-torque any diesel semi." And if Tesla's autonomous technology is a success in their cars, perhaps like Otto, Musk will start testing autonomous semis as well, (if he hasn't already)!


While we soon may be able to fall asleep behind the wheel of a Tesla, falling asleep while operating a vehicle will likely result in a motor vehicle accident today. Though fully self-driving cars are in the near future, the world is currently still dependent on ordinary human controlled vehicles. As such, human error is still a cause for concern on roadways, as car accidents are possible. If you or someone you know has been involved in a collision, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC at 844.4MI.FIRM, for a free consultation.