Lasers are used in Lidar system which is used in self driving cars to identify objects including bikers, buildings and other cars. However, lasers can also be used to trick the autonomous car system into seeing things that are not actually there resulting in it making poor driving decisions.
Lidar system is normally installed on top of the car which spins in all direction whenever the car moves and uses lasers to form a sort of radar which tells the car of its surrounding situation.
According to a paper presented at Black Hat Europe by Jonathan Petit, a researcher at Security Innovation, a cyber security firm, pointing laser at the self driving vehicle will not make it to shut down, however, building a laser system consisting of off-the-shelf parts worth of $60 will work.
Petit said he could spoof thousands of objects and basically carried out a denial-of-service attack on the tracking system so it was not able to track real object. He tested on one version of Lidar system which is available on market. He also argued that this type of vulnerability should be a wake up call to makers of self driving cars.
Security flaws seems to be a hot topic in United States as researchers uncovered ways to hack cars and taking control of their system which in the end might resulting in major recalls by major automakers. One example of it is Fiat Chrysler which recalled about 8000 vehicles due to concerns that its media console prone to wireless hacking.