It was discovered last year that some Tesla cars had cabin-facing cameras inside. Back then, CEO Elon Musk made it clear that the purpose of those cameras was more as a deterrent and as evidence against vandalizing future robotaxis. It wasn’t, in any way, to be used to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers by keeping an eye on how attentive drivers are. It seems, however, that recent events may have finally forced Musk’s hands and a new update finally enables that cabin camera to be used for Tesla’s ill-named Autopilot feature.
Tesla, especially Musk, has long insisted that Autopilot doesn’t mean what the word really means. It’s not meant for totally hands-free, driverless driving and still requires driver attention. It even requires that drivers have their hands on the wheel and sensors will detect if it isn’t and sound audible warnings.
That, however, obviously hasn’t been enough and recent events show that human judgment and technology still haven’t reached a point that even such driver assistance systems could be deemed completely safe. While many carmakers already use in-cabin cameras to monitor drivers, Musk considered the technology still inadequate or pointless.
It is both surprising and a bit expected, then, that a software update is finally changing that. As reported by a new Model Y owner, the cabin camera can now be used to determine if a driver is inattentive when Autopilot mode is engaged. More importantly, it will probably detect if there’s a driver sitting there in the first place and disable Autopilot if there isn’t.
The cabin camera apparently works in conjunction with the original steering wheel sensors, which is probably a good thing for reliability. The update also notes that data from the camera doesn’t get out of the car unless you actually agreed to and enabled data sharing.