In a report on Tuesday, the US magazine Consumer Reports published a critique of Tesla’s use of in-car cameras to develop and improve its comprehensive autonomous driving suite. The publication noted that such practices by the electric vehicle manufacturer raise privacy concerns.
Elon Musk confirmed in a recent tweet that Tesla is using images of vehicles that are part of the ongoing FSD Beta to determine whether drivers were paying enough attention to the road. Because of this, the CEO noted that some users’ access to FSD Beta had been revoked. When asked further, Musk confirmed that Tesla used the vehicle’s camera to determine whether FSD beta users were paying enough attention when operating their vehicle.
This was a key point of criticism for Consumer Reports, which noted that Tesla’s use of the cockpit camera in its vehicles raises privacy concerns. Jake Fisher, senior director of the magazine’s automotive testing center, shared his thoughts on the matter. “If Tesla has the ability to determine if the driver is not paying attention, it needs to warn the driver in the moment, as other automakers already do,” he said.
The Tesla Model 3 and Model Y are equipped with cockpit cameras, which the electric vehicle maker intends to use for its upcoming Robotaxi network. Updates to the Model S and Model X, which are expected to begin shipping soon, are also equipped with in-car cameras.
The cockpit camera, at least for today’s Model 3 and Model Y, is disabled by default. However, drivers have the option of enabling the car camera as a way to help Tesla develop future safety features and enhancements. Tesla has indicated that it will capture and share a video clip from the cockpit camera if the vehicle crashes or if the automatic emergency braking system is activated.
While Consumer Reports ‘concerns are notable, Tesla appears poised to use its vehicles’ cockpit camera as a way to determine future driver engagement. In October, an EV hacker observed references to driver monitoring systems in Tesla software. @greentheonly. The hacker indicated that Tesla’s car camera could be used to detect whether drivers’ eyes were closed or looking away from the road. This is in contrast to the strategy employed by automakers like General Motors, whose Super Cruise uses infrared technology to identify the driver’s eye movements or head position.
In a statement to Consumer Reports, John Davisson, senior attorney for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), noted that closed-loop systems like those used by GM for Super Cruise do not present the same privacy risks as those presented by the camera Tesla booth. “I think there is reason to be suspicious that this is Tesla’s purpose of the system. Later, it can be reused for a system that is designed to track driver behaviors, potentially for other business purposes, ”he said.
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