Tesla Cars Will Now Spy on You to Make Sure You Don’t Autopilot Yourself Into a PR Disaster

Tesla Cars Will Now Spy on You to Make Sure You Don’t Autopilot Yourself Into a PR Disaster
Photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images

In an effort to assuage fears about the dangers inherent in its autopilot feature, Tesla has announced that the in-cabin cameras in its Model 3 and Y vehicles will now monitor drivers for “attentiveness” while the feature is turned on, TechCrunch reports.

Citing online reports from multiple Tesla owners who’ve begun to receive the update, TechCrunch says the cameras in question are located above the rearview mirror and, when turned on, are already used in a limited capacity by the company to record and store data about “safety events,” i.e., fender-benders or worse. Now, however, they’ll automatically turn on whenever drivers initiate the car’s advanced driver assistance system, it says. The changes, announced in a recent software update, will also get the car to yell at you if it thinks you’re not paying enough attention.

This switch-up definitely makes sense, since Tesla’s autopilot feature has gotten it into some hot water over the last several years. While Tesla makes it clear that autopilot is “not a self-driving system” and is designed for a “fully attentive driver who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any time,” the feature has nevertheless been abused and misused repeatedly — leading to a number of crashes, including fatal ones.

Now, in what seems like an effort to avoid more episodes like the one involving this raving maniac, the company is clamping down by making sure that you’re still, like, sitting upright and looking at the road while autopilot is turned on. If you have somehow fallen asleep at the wheel, the car will send you an alert.

“The cabin camera above your rearview mirror can now detect and alert driver inattentiveness while Autopilot is engaged. Camera data does not leave the car itself, which means the system cannot save or transmit information unless data sharing is enabled,” the company told drivers in a statement, clearly trying to assuage privacy fears.

While improving safety, this is also likely a liability feature for Tesla so that, in the event of a crash, the cameras can verify that it was the driver’s fault, not some rogue AI insurrection a la HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Telsa shut down its press department recently, so there’s no one to ask for comment.