Tesla owners sharing Pictures on social networks Thursday of a new version of Tesla software that allows the camera above the rearview mirror to detect and alert driver inattention when the autopilot is engaged. Previously, Tesla had pushed back the idea of camera surveillance, relying instead on detecting torque on the steering wheel to determine if a driver was engaged.
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Tesla included a cabin-facing camera in the car near the rearview mirror he said is used to record short video clips following collisions or when the emergency braking system is activated. Camera feature is off by default in the US, according to Model 3 owners Manual. Tesla CEO Elon Musk also mentionned last year, the camera was “intended for the surveillance of vandalism in a future robotaxi”. It is also described videoconferencing as a future feature of Teslas.
It’s not on. Intended for monitoring vandalism in a future robotaxi. In addition, the car has transparent windows, so espionage is of limited value.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 12, 2020
Musk and Tesla have long described a grand vision for electric cars, including self-driving features that transform vehicles into robotaxis who make $ 30,000 in gross profit per car. But neither the robotaxi function nor the videoconferencing function made it into the hands of customers.
Using the camera to monitor the driver’s attention instead would allow Tesla to better align with both critics and its industry peers.
Driver assistance systems like Autopilot are not regulated by the US government, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has called for safety rules for these systems. Last month, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents a large part of the automotive industry except Tesla, released guidelines for driver assistance systems like Autopilot. The principles called for considering an on-board camera for driver monitoring systems.
A MIT study published last fall found that Tesla drivers are more distracted when using Autopilot, a driver assistance system designed to steer the car and keep up with traffic. Tesla has always told drivers to stay alert, keep their hands on the wheel, and be ready to take control of the vehicle at all times while using autopilot.
Despite these warnings, the MIT study found that drivers looked away from the road more frequently when the autopilot was active. There have been several high-profile fatalities in which Tesla owners using autopilot did not seem to pay enough attention to the road.
There have also been examples of drivers blatantly ignoring Tesla’s. directions and get up from the driver’s seat while the car is active. Earlier this month, the California Highway Patrol arrested bay area man for riding in the backseat of his Tesla while the autopilot was active. Witnesses said the man crossed the Bay Bridge in the backseat in one of the incidents.
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He was charged with two counts of reckless driving and his Tesla was towed from the scene.
Autonomous driving experts have said that using an on-board camera to make sure drivers are behind the wheel and be careful could be one way to make roads safer for everyone. Tesla’s competitors such as GM and Ford use on-board cameras to monitor the driver of its driver assistance systems.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment and does not generally communicate with professional news media. Tesla’s software update that includes the Driver Watch System does not appear to be widely distributed so far.
But Musk’s reports and statements have indicated fierce resistance to driver monitoring systems in the past.
A Wall Street Journal 2018 report said Tesla engineers had discussed adding eye tracking to autopilot, but the idea was rejected over cost and concerns about the technology ineffective or that would irritate readers with alerts. Musk tweeted, in response to the story, that “Eyetracking dismissed for being ineffective, not for the cost.”
It’s wrong. Eyetracking dismissed for being ineffective, not for the cost. WSJ fails to mention that Tesla is the safest car on the road, which would make the article ridiculous. About 4 times better than the average.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 14, 2018
Tesla’s approach to driver assistance systems has already been criticized by one of its partners. Mobileye, now a subsidiary of Intel, which had supplied critical technology for Autopilot, ceased working with Tesla in 2016.
“It is not enough to tell the driver that you need to be vigilant. You have to tell the driver why to be alert, it’s not just a lawyer talk, ”Mobileye founder Amnon Shashua said at an event in 2016, shortly after the first high-profile death of the Automatic pilot.
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