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Confusing your car's driver assistance systems is easier than you might think

Vehicle manufacturers' warnings to always pay attention when driving are no joke, and we'll show you why.

Tesla's Autopilot is an effective and robust suite of advanced driver assistance systems, but it's not infallible.

Tesla

Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) are incredible feats of technology and engineering that help keep us safe while we drive. Unfortunately, because mere mortals make them, they aren't perfect and can sometimes be fooled.

Sometimes the deception is humanmade, as in a recent study conducted by Tencent's Keen Security Lab. In this study, researchers sought to confuse the Autopilot system in a Tesla by applying reflective stickers on the ground in the path of the car that would confuse Tesla's advanced lane-keeping system.

It worked, and the car began to veer off in the direction of the stickers, but this isn't a fault with Tesla, it's more of a problem with how secure infrastructure is when that is what cars depend on for their limited self-driving capabilities. But as long as a driver is paying proper attention to what their vehicle is doing, the situation can be negated.

"The [Keen Security Lab] findings are all based on scenarios in which the physical environment around the vehicle is artificially altered to make the Autopilot system behave differently, which is not a realistic concern given that a driver can easily override Autopilot at any time by using the steering wheel or brakes and should always be prepared to do so," said Tesla representatives in a statement to Roadshow.

Super Cruise is one of the most effective ADAS suites on the market today, but its driver monitoring camera can be blinded by bright, direct sunlight.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

It's not only Tesla's autopilot that can get confused. A recent report published Monday by Automotive News states that Cadillac's Super Cruise system -- which we've experienced and found to be one of the best ADAS suites available to consumers -- gets confused by intense blasts of sunlight.

Super Cruise's driver monitoring system relies on an infrared camera mounted on top of the steering column. In a majority of situations, this works great and allows for hands-free driving by ensuring the driver is watching the road.

When hit with intense sunlight, the camera is effectively blinded, and that causes Super Cruise to disengage. It's been an issue since the system debuted in 2018. Cadillac is reportedly working on a solution to this issue, which will likely debut with its next-generation Super Cruise system.

Cadillac didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

The main takeaway from this is that having a feature like Autopilot or Super Cruise isn't an excuse to tune out on your commute. Modern ADAS systems are incredibly advanced, but they still need to be monitored at all times by an alert and engaged human driver.