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A camera situated on the rear-view mirror of thousands of new Tesla cars may be a monitoring whether drivers are using their phones or otherwise distracted when behind the wheel, a hacker has revealed.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk previously claimed that the camera would be used to prevent vandalism in future self-driving taxis, however the latest revelation appears to show that it is instead for monitoring human drivers.
The hacker, known as ‘green’, discovered a series of key words within the electric car’s software, suggesting it detects a driver’s actions in the moments leading up to an accident in order to determine a cause.
These words include: ‘Blinded’, ‘eyes closed’, ‘phone use’ and ‘head down’.
The camera comes with every new Tesla Model 3 and Model Y, though when they were first introduced three years ago Tesla said they would remain inactive until a future software update.
In April, a Twitter user speculated that the camera would be used in “robotaxis” to prevent passengers from damaging the car when there is no human driver present.
“If they vandalise your car, it’s on camera and they’ll pay for the damage and possibly get charged criminally,” Twitter user Marty Tee said.
Musk responded: “Correct.”
When the cameras were finally activated for the first time a few months ago, Tesla told users it would be for research purposes.
In an in-car message requesting consent from drivers, the electric car maker said it would help make vehicles safer in the future.
“If enabled, Tesla will automatically capture images and a short video clip just prior to a collision or safety event to help engineers develop safety features and enhancements in the future,” the message stated.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the latest discovery, though the news was welcomed by those in the electric vehicle industry.
Fred Lambert, editor-in-chief of electric vehicle blog Electrek, said he was happy to see Tesla developing better driver monitoring.
“It’s one of the biggest weaknesses of Tesla’s Autopilot in my opinion,” he wrote.
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