Mission Impossible 7: AI, self-driving cars, and spoofing

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Have you seen the latest Tom Cruise movie, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One? It’s really good, with plenty of adrenaline rushes and lots of explosions, like the other six films from the Mission: Impossible franchise. For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, I’ll try not to include any spoilers here.

A few scenes from this movie have already gone viral. For example, there’s the one where Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) drives his motorcycle straight off a massive cliff before parachuting to safety, which is especially impressive because, as many of us already know, Tom Cruise likes to do most of his own stunts, even the really dangerous ones. In a “behind the scenes” clip released along with the film, we can see the director, Christopher McQuarrie, practically holding his breath as he watches the scene being filmed, until it becomes clear that Tom’s parachute has opened and the megastar is drifting safely towards the ground below. Can you imagine performing a risk analysis for that scene, and trying to calculate the financial impact of a malfunctioning parachute?

But apart from Mr. Cuise’s motorcycle flight, which would surely earn him a gold medal at the X Games, there are a couple of other scenes that caught my attention. The first is near the beginning of the film, when the Entity (the name given to the artificial intelligence system portrayed in the film) is able to deceive the sonar system on the Russian submarine Sevastopol, making its crew think that an enemy vessel has fired a torpedo at them.

Although the scene created is highly dramatic, it is not very realistic, for several reasons. Sonar, which is actually an acronym that stands for Sound Navigation and Ranging, works in a way very similar to the ultrasonic distance sensors (UDS) used in some advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). Both types of technology emit waves or pulses that are reflected by objects, so that their distance can be calculated by measuring how long it takes for the signals to return. Although UDS systems make use of ultrasonic sound waves, sonar uses sound waves at a lower frequency, in the form of a ping or pulse, because ultrasonic frequencies cannot travel through water.

The type of spoofing and jamming attacks seen in the film actually do exist, and devices at both ends can be targeted. For example, false signals can be generated with the same characteristics as sonar waves, or a sonar signal can be captured and then released after a delay, to deceive the sonar emitter by manipulating signal return times, or “noise” can be generated in the channel to confuse a sonar system, etc.

Of course, if the Sevastopol was really a Russian submarine equipped with the latest technology, it would be able to neutralize threats like these by applying countermeasures, such as by using multiple sensors to detect data corruption, applying data encryption, using packet signing to confirm message integrity, etc. Instead, what we see in the film is an obsolete, completely analog sonar system with the familiar bright green screen. These days, even recreational fishing boats have much more sophisticated digital systems with color screens, simply for the purpose of calculating depths and capturing views of what might exist beneath the surface.

However, my favorite scene is the one where Benji (Simon Pegg), a member of Ethan’s team, is driving a BMW iX in pursuit of a classic Orient Express-style train that is speeding towards Innsbruck, a small city in Austria located in the Eno river valley, which is surrounded by high mountains.

At just the right moment, Benji activates the car’s autonomous driving system as it races along an unpaved road in parallel with the train tracks. Why? Because Ethan needs to jump from the train, of course! This is where I really start to go nuts from all of the errors I can see. Sure, I know that Ethan’s team may have given Benji a BMW that had been “upgraded” by a brilliant scientist like the character “Q” from the James Bond films, but there’s no way of knowing this, because the car we see in the movie looks just like a regular production model.

Many of us at GMV will also find this scene especially cool, because by providing our GMV GSharp® solution, our company supplies the precise and secure positioning system that is being used by BMW, and which its already installed on vehicles driving on the road today. I guess you could say that because of this, GMV makes a “cameo appearance” in the film.

Once Benji has activated the self-driving feature, he moves into the passenger seat so he can work on his laptop computer. However, autonomous driving still requires someone behind the steering wheel paying attention to the road, and there are multiple sensors installed to make sure this is happening. Are the driver’s eyes closed, or is the driver looking away for too long? Or is the driver no longer in the driver’s seat? In any of these cases, the vehicle will issue an alert, and for safety reasons the car can even pull off the road and stop if an alert is ignored.

In addition, even though our positioning system has a margin of error of less than 10 centimeters, the Eno valley is not exactly a location with lots of ground stations and 5G coverage, so it is probably not an area where drivers are authorized to put their cars into self-driving mode (for example, this is not yet authorized anywhere in Spain). In addition to all this, the car is going at full speed as it slides and skids along an unpaved road... I’m sure that at some point in the future we’ll be able to configure the self-driving mode in our vehicles with specific profiles for cases like these (I’m ready to put mine into “hardcore” or “nightmare” mode, like in Quake III), but right now our use of autonomous driving is limited to certain settings and specific conditions, where it has already been confirmed that these systems can be used safely.

In summary, if you want to be entertained and like movies with non-stop action, you won’t want to miss Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. Just don’t get too caught up in all the technical details, because some of them might make you want to roll your eyes a little.


Author: Carlos Sahuquillo

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Source URL: https://gmv.com/media/blog/gnss-autonomous-driving/mission-impossible-7-ai-self-driving-cars-and-spoofing