Tesla will now monitor drivers via in-car cameras to make sure they’re paying attention when Autopilot is on

EM   Photo by Christophe Gateau:picture alliance via Getty Images
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

  • Tesla cars will now monitor drivers who use Autopilot via in-car cameras.
  • The cameras, above the rearview mirror, will check that drivers are paying attention while using Autopilot.
  • Previously, Tesla used sensors in the steering wheel to check drivers were paying attention.
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Tesla cars will now monitor drivers who use Autopilot through in-car cameras, TechCrunch reports.

Tesla will activate the cameras, located above the rearview mirror, in Model 3 and Y cars to check that drivers are paying attention to the road while using Autopilot driver assist, it said in a message to drivers.

Until now, Tesla cars relied on steering-wheel sensors that detected whether drivers were holding on, but many drivers have shared their tricks to fool the sensors and go hands-free.

“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,” Tesla said in a release note to its drivers, which was shared by one Tesla owner on Twitter.

Another Twitter user shared a photo of the same update for their vehicle.

Last year, Tesla activated its cabin-facing cameras installed in its Model 3 and Y vehicles in a software update. The camera, if approved by the driver, would “help engineers develop safety features and enhancements in the future,” Tesla said in its release notes at the time.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk had previously rejected using cameras and infrared sensors to track drivers’ eye movements, saying that eye-tracking functions were ineffective.

Tesla has faced criticism over the safety of its self-driving features. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened at least 27 investigations into Tesla car crashes, and Autopilot was involved in at least three fatal crashes since 2016, Reuters reported.

Tesla did not immediately respond for comment.

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Tesla asked to recall 158,000 Model S and Model X vehicles over a safety defect involving failing touchscreens

Tesla Model S
  • Tesla was asked by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall around 158,000 vehicles over faulty touchscreens, the agency said in a letter to the company Wednesday.
  • The NHTSA said the media control units on certain Tesla vehicles failed after their memory ran out, causing issues with the backup camera, defogging and defrosting settings, Autopilot system, and turn signals.
  • The issue impacted certain 2012-2018 Model S vehicles and 2016-2018 Model X vehicles, which used the NVIDIA flash memory devices that failed — after just five to six years on average.
  • Vice News first reported on the issue in October 2019, prompting the NHTSA to open an investigation in June 2020.
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The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration sent a letter to Tesla on Wednesday asking the company to recall around 158,000 vehicles over faulty touchscreen hardware.

The agency said it was “investigating a potential safety-related defect concerning incidents of media control unit (“MCU”) failures” that had resulted in problems with the backup camera, defogging and defrosting settings, Autopilot, and turn signals.

The issue, which stemmed from the MCUs failing after exceeding their storage capacity, impacted certain 2012-2018 Model S and 2016-2018 Tesla Model X vehicles.

The touchscreens on those models are powered by an NVIDIA processor which stores data in an attached “flash memory device.” But those devices have a finite amount of storage capacity, and according to the NHTSA’s investigation, once they filled up – which happened after just 5 to 6 years, on average – they shut down, causing the MCUs to fail and creating other safety issues.

The MCU failures resulted in the rearview/backup camera screen going “black,” an inability to control defogging and defrosting settings, and the loss of some Autopilot alerts and turn signal functionality, which the agency said could “increase the risk of crash.”

The NHTSA said its Office of Defects Investigation had “tentatively concluded that the failure of the media control unit (MCU) constitutes a defect related to motor vehicle safety.” While the letter doesn’t formally require Tesla to order a recall, the automaker must submit additional justification if it decides not to, and the NHTSA can still take further action if it isn’t satisfied with Tesla’s response.

Vice News originally reported on the issue in October 2019, citing a Tesla repair expert who said: “When this burns out, you wake up to a black screen [in the car’s center console.] There’s nothing there. No climate control. You can generally drive the car, but it won’t charge.”

The NHTSA said it opened its own investigation on June 22, 2020.

Read more: How Tesla bounced back from worst mistake Elon Musk ever made and became the world’s most valuable car company

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