Tesla's cars are loaded with cameras for its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Beta systems. After security concerns related to external cameras, now the automaker's internal camera is under attack from Consumer Reports. Let's face it, whenever there are cameras involved, there's a good chance people are going to voice concerns related to privacy.
Interestingly, while many other automakers have in-cabin cameras to monitor drivers, Tesla has hesitated to add such a feature. Even after many people have suggested Tesla's self-driving system would work better if it monitored and alerted drivers based on information from an internal camera, it still didn't choose to go that route, though there is obviously a camera inside the cabin, and due to its location near the central rearview mirror, it appears to be focused on the driver.
Fast-forward to more recently, as Tesla has initiated a group of current owners to act as beta testers for its Full Self-Driving Beta technology, and it has become clear that the in-car camera can be activated. Once activated, it records and transmits footage back to Tesla.
Consumer Reports points out that other automakers' cameras monitor drivers. Some automakers refer to the technology as advanced driver monitoring, a driver drowsiness system, or a driver attention monitor. If the systems detect that the driver isn't paying attention or falls asleep, it immediately alerts them.
While little is officially known about Tesla's in-car camera system, it reportedly records and transmits footage back to the automaker, likely to help it collect data to improve the self-driving technology. However, the system doesn't alert drivers that they're being recorded, nor does it let them know if it has detected a lack of attention or any other anomaly. To be clear, no one seems to know if the system is even capable of live and active driver monitoring with prompts.
Consumer Reports' Jake Fisher said:
“If Tesla has the ability to determine if the driver isn't paying attention, it needs to warn the driver in the moment, like other automakers already do."
CR also says Tesla's in-car camera is actually turned off by default. Drivers have to enable it themselves. Tesla says, if enabled, the camera will record and share video clips during a crash or when advanced driver-assist systems kick in. However, it doesn't alert the driver that it's recording.
In contrast, systems from legacy OEMs, like Ford and GM, work on a closed-loop. They don't transmit data, rather, they keep a close "eye" on the driver to provide real-time feedback if their attention is waning.
Recently, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that some Full Self-Driving Beta testers had been removed from the program since they weren't paying enough attention. Twitter users responded to Musk and asked how Tesla knows drivers aren't paying attention.
It became immediately clear that the in-car driver-facing camera is recording and sending footage to Tesla.
While CR encourages in-car monitoring, the outlet suggests these systems should be used for real-time monitoring and feedback. It also suggests drivers should not be subject to random recording that's then transmitted back to a company since it may be deemed as a privacy concern. This all comes amid other recent concerns that Tesla's external cameras could also pose a security risk.
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Is requiring the driver to activate the system and letting them know they're being recorded enough? Let us know what you think by starting a conversation in our comment section below.