Say what you will about the monarch that controls the Kingdom of Burger, but he’s no fool. That’s why the Monarch of Meat announced a campaign that takes advantage of some sloppy sign recognition in the Tesla Autopilot’s Traffic Light and Stop Sign control, specifically in instances where the Tesla confuses a Burger King sign for a stop sign (maybe a “traffic control” sign?) and proceeds to stop the car, leaving the occupants of the car in a great position to consume some Whoppers.
The confusion was first noted by a Tesla Model 3 owner who has confusingly sawed the top off his steering wheel, for some reason, and uploaded a video of the car confusing the Burger King sign for a stop sign.
Burger King’s crack marketing team managed to arrange to use the video in this ad, and built a short promotion around it:
Did you see what I was talking about with that steering wheel? I guess the owner just thought it looked Batmobile-cool, or something? It’s also worth noting that is seems that the car’s map display has been modified, likely to remove any Tesla branding and obscure the actual location:
The promotion, which Burger King is using the #autopilotwhopper hashtag to promote, was only good for June 23rd, when they’d give you a free Whopper if you met the following conditions:
To qualify for the Promotion, guest must share a picture or video on Twitter, Facebook or Twitter with guest’s smart car outside a BK restaurant using #autopilotwhopper and #freewhopper.
Guests who complete step #3 will receive a direct message, within 24 hours of posting the picture/video, with a unique code for a Free Whopper sandwich (“Coupon”). Limit one Coupon per account.
It seems Burger King is using the phrase “smart car” to refer to any car that has some sort of Level 2 semi-autonomous driver’s assistance system that can identify signs, but the use of the “autopilot” in the hashtag and the original video make it clear that Teslas are the targeted cars here.
Of course, I’m sure if you were really determined not to pay money for a Whopper and took a pic with a GM vehicle with SuperCruise, you could probably get that Whopper.
While Burger King is being clever and having some fun here, the whole thing does kind of highlight how easy these sign-identification systems are to fool.
To a human, the Burger King sign is not something you’d ever confuse with a stop or warning sign of any type, but these AI systems aren’t so smart. They’re not “reading” the signs, they’re matching them probabilistically to a set of defined criteria, and as such they’re easy to fool.
It’s not just Tesla; I was able to fool a Mazda sign identification system easily with a marker and paper:
That SLOP sign would not fool a human, but look at the HUD there: the Mazda is duped.
This has real implications: think how easy it would be to fool a Tesla under Autopilot almost-control with a fake stop sign pretty much anywhere. A motivated troublemaker could color-copy a crude stop sign and put it anywhere they wanted to make things inconvenient or even dangerous for such cars.
Tesla does say the sign recognition system is a Beta, and this whole promotion does a lot to confirm that’s true. But, it’s a Beta out and deployed in the real world, reminding us once again that autonomous vehicles are very much not yet here, and if you have a Tesla with Autopilot, please be smarter than your alleged “smart car.”
Also, you can just go buy burgers whenever and wherever you want. Don’t eat what your car tells you to.