Tesla has announced that the camera in its rear view mirror will start connecting with Autopilot, making sure that drivers are paying attention to the road when the system is switched on.
Tesla’s Autopilot features are supposed to require full driver attention, but there have been several instances that prove they’re far too easy to get around. So this is the next obvious step for the company to make.
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Previously Autopilot gauged the driver’s attention using torque sensors in the steering wheel. The idea was drivers would need to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel while Autopilot was engaged, or else the car would go through a series of warnings to tell you off.
But there have been numerous instances of people using weights or other hacks to get around the system, so clearly it’s not as effective as it should be. Meanwhile other automakers have started adding camera and IR-based eye-tracking systems to ensure the driver is actively paying attention to the road.
In the past Tesla CEO Elon Musk has refused to include camera-based driver monitoring, claiming the technology was “ineffective (opens in new tab).” But as time goes on, it’s been clear that Tesla’s existing driver monitoring tech isn’t particularly effective either.
But it seems like Musk has finally caved to pressure from regulators, his own engineers, and the competition. So a new software update has been pushed to Teslas with the in-car camera as part of software update 2021.2.15.11 (via Elektrek (opens in new tab)).
The camera has previously been used to monitor the attentiveness of drivers in the Full Self Driving beta, some of whom were kicked out of the program because they “did not pay sufficient attention to the road (opens in new tab).” Now it appears to be rolling out to all Teslas with on-board cameras.
“The cabin camera above your rearview mirror can now detect and alert driver inattentiveness while Autopilot is engaged,” the release notes says. “Camera data does not leave the car itself, which means the system cannot save or transmit information unless data sharing is enabled.”
There’s no definition of what Tesla defines as “inattentiveness”, and it’s not clear whether this means Tesla will allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel while Autopilot is engaged.
But however the system works, it means there’s at least one more way to stop drivers from reclining the seat and taking a nap (opens in new tab) while the car is speeding down the highway.
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