Tesla’s Cabin Camera Just Got Even Weirder

Tesla’s interior cabin camera has been a source of concern for awhile, and for several reasons. First of all, not everyone realizes that there is a cabin camera. Second of all, people have to actively choose to not share the data that the cabin camera is capturing. Otherwise, Tesla is being sent everything that happens inside of the car. And finally, while the cabin camera is supposed to be monitoring driver inattention, it hasn’t been doing a great job of that, until now anyway. With Tesla’s interior cabin camera update, driver monitoring just got better – and maybe a little weirder. 

A dark gray 2021 Tesla Model Y against a black background.
2021 Tesla Model Y | Tesla

Tesla’s cabin camera has been watching drivers for awhile

Tesla’s cabin camera has been in Tesla vehicles since 2017. It initially started in only the Model 3, and wasn’t actually doing anything. According to Teslarati, in 2019 Elon Musk tweeted that the cabin camera was meant for robotaxi. (It should be noted that one Twitter user had the brilliant idea of allowing the cabin camera to capture car karaoke, or “Caraoke,” which seems like it would be a huge selling point for Tesla.)

Then Tesla started using the cabin cameras. When they were first activated, their stated purpose was to record what was happening in a vehicle right before an accident. This sort of data would be valuable to preventing accidents and improving the safety in Teslas. This is optional for Tesla owners. They have to turn off the feature which shares images and information with Tesla through the settings feature. 

What else is the cabin camera good for?

Of course Tesla is always looking for ways to stay ahead of the trends regarding technology. And safety is always a concern for Tesla, especially because their two semi-autonomous driving systems, Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, are fairly regularly under fire. There are Tesla drivers who use these features and either ignore or are unaware of, Tesla’s warnings that the vehicles are not capable of full autonomous driving. Accidents involving Teslas while these features are engaged are on the rise, and several organizations and politicians are calling for Tesla to be investigated. 

Naturally, Tesla wants to cut down on the number of negative incidents involving their vehicles. They began using the cabin camera as a way to monitor driver’s behavior while behind the wheel. Some of Tesla’s uses of the cabin camera were made public by a hacker known as @greentheonly. These included where their eyes were looking, and whether they were using a phone while driving. 

Tesla wants to improve driver monitoring

Tesla’s interior cabin camera update is part of the larger Tesla software update 2021.32.5. The cabin camera has been expanded to a larger number of vehicles, those that are still equipped with radar. (Tesla recently ditched radar in favor of a full camera-based system). 

The cabin camera update will monitor driver behavior and also send an alert to an inattentive driver. Look away from the road? Or use your phone? You’ll get a chime to remind you to pay attention. Tesla drivers posting about the feature on various social media channels have reported that they do feel that they pay attention a little more knowing that their car is watching them. 

The real question is, how much do people want to be surveillanced? And how much responsibility does Tesla have to create vehicles that must be used as responsibly as any other vehicle? It’s a dicey situation, when we have vehicles that can almost but not quite drive themselves, and cameras watching our every move. Perhaps as the technology improves, car manufacturers and drivers can find a way to operate ethically and responsibly – both while making cars and while driving them. 

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