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This article was published on May 28, 2021

Finally! Tesla starts using cabin cameras to monitor drivers using Autopilot

Let's hope that's the end of 'backseat drivers'

Finally! Tesla starts using cabin cameras to monitor drivers using Autopilot
Ioanna Lykiardopoulou
Story by

Ioanna Lykiardopoulou

Ioanna is a writer at SHIFT. She likes the transition from old to modern, and she's all about shifting perspectives. Ioanna is a writer at SHIFT. She likes the transition from old to modern, and she's all about shifting perspectives.

Tesla is starting to use its cabin cameras to make sure that drivers are paying attention when the Autopilot and the Full Self-Driving features are engaged.

This information comes from Kevin Smith who tweetted the respective software update of his Tesla Model Y.

Here’s the automaker’s statement, as can be seen from the photos of the tweet.

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. To change your data settings, tap Controls > Safety & Security > Data Sharing on your car’s touchscreen.

In the past, Elon Musk had rejected the idea of cabin cameras used for driver monitoring system, and up until now the Tesla cars were relying on steering wheel sensors to determine the presence of a driver behind the wheel.

According to his statement back in 2019, the in-car cameras’ aim would be to prevent people from vandalizing cars, when they become a fully autonomous robotaxi fleet.

What’s interesting is that he had also hinted at their potential use to supplement the vehicles’ outside cameras.

Just three days ago, the automaker announced its transition to the Tesla Vision, its camera-based autonomous driving system that replaced radar. So are we to assume to that this was Musk’s plan all along? 

Now, it’s important to notice that the company is emphasizing the fact that the cabin cameras don’t share data, unless this feature is enabled (as you can see on the first tweet above). This comes as no surprise, given that Tesla’s in-car monitoring system has evoked serious concerns regarding privacy risks.

That’s because, unlike other automakers, Tesla is using conventional cameras with video recording, rather than infrared alternatives that work in real-time and don’t store data. It seems unlikely that this has been changed now that the cameras have been turned into a safety feature.

Doubts aside, it’s fair to say that this camera update is mostly a good thing. Autopilot misuse has caused too many accidents to be ignored, and if the cabin cameras can actually stop “back seat drivers,” then I can back it up.


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