Creepy New Update Activates Cabin Camera to Monitor Drivers During Tesla ‘Autopilot’

Tesla “Autopilot” continues to stay in the news. As the dust settles from the numerous crashes and dangerous situations regarding people’s overtrust and misuse of Tesla’s so-called “Autopilot,” Tesla announces a new Tesla update. It will utilize the cabin’s cameras to do eye-tracking to judge a driver’s focus and ability to monitor the car while in “Autopilot” mode. 

A blue Tesla Model Y is being tested on a closed track.
Tesla Model Y | Tesla

In the notes for the 2021.4.15.11 update, the camera mounted above the rearview mirror will “detect and alert driver inattentiveness while Autopilot is engaged.” 

The new Tesla update is needed, but why does it have to be so creepy?

According to Autoblog, this new Tesla update feels like a futuristic Elon Musk contraption. However, the truth is, this is more mainstream than it feels. Like the Tesla “Autopilot” mode, many other cars with similar driver assists use cabin cameras to detect drowsy or nonattentive drivers. 

The idea of a car using cameras to monitor the driver feels pretty creepy. However, the camera system only alerts the driver when the driver assists are activated. As many people have proven, the steering wheel torque sensor is easily fooled. That, along with the eye sensor, might help to make the “Autopilot” system more secure and, in turn, safer. 

Is the eye-tracking software working? 

screenshot of Tesla Autopilot using camera to watch drivers for added security for autopilot.
Tesla eye-tracking system | Greentheonly via YouTube

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According to Autoblog, a Tesla hacker named Greentheonly has been checking in on Tesla’s progress in implementing the eye-tracking system alongside “Autopilot.” some of the information released by the hacker shows the camera and computer able to recognize how attentive a driver is. 

Some other videos and photos have been posted on social media recently of customers receiving deliveries of new Tesla Model X and Model S cars with the steering yoke in place of the steering wheel and other technological changes. 

Is Tesla “Autopilot” what these cameras were always said to be used for? 

In an article published last year on Engadget, the writer references when Elon Musk said that the cabin-facing camera was for monitoring future robotaxi service. However, a hacker found out the code suggested that these cameras could monitor human drivers for signs of distracted driving. 

The article goes on to reference words in the code like “dark” or “blinded.” It is unclear exactly what these words mean. It could be that it refers to a change in lighting conditions or some other sort of obfuscation. There is also conditional programming for when sunglasses obscure a driver’s eyes. 

Looking back at articles like this from over a year ago is interesting. At that time, Tesla was fairly adamant that Tesla wasn’t planning on using them to monitor or evaluate drivers. The ammount of Tesla crashes where misusing “Autopilot” were the cause, have many non-Tesla drivers unnerved. To make matter worse, we see contiuned reports of “driverless” Teslas maurading the streets.

Although, what feels invasive and a bit creepy might not seem quite as dangerous or creepy as seeing a Tesla Model S flying down the road at 75 mph with no one in the driver’s seat.