According to a biography of Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson, the Tesla CEO wanted to utilize the company’s internal driver monitoring camera to spy on users’ driving habits. The goal was to use the footage as evidence in autopilot-related lawsuits. The biography reveals that Musk pushed for the camera’s footage, initially without the knowledge of drivers, in order to defend Tesla during investigations following crashes.
The cameras, which were introduced in Tesla’s Model 3 in 2017 and later in S/X models, were not activated until 2021. They are now used to ensure drivers are focused on the road while Autopilot or Full Self-Driving (FSD) systems are engaged. However, Musk reportedly hoped to employ the camera for cabin monitoring, particularly if Tesla’s Robotaxi dream becomes a reality.
Musk believed that the majority of accidents were due to bad drivers rather than faulty software. He suggested that data from the car’s cameras could be used to determine driver error. However, this suggestion was met with resistance from privacy advocates within the company.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently investigating Tesla’s Autopilot system, focusing on driver monitoring safeguards. The biography suggests that Musk’s primary motivation for using the cameras was not to enhance safety or improve the system, but to protect Tesla and himself against lawsuits or investigations.
Despite Musk’s desire for surveillance, Tesla’s current warning to drivers states that the camera data does not leave the vehicle unless the owner shares it and is not used for identity verification.
Source: Electrek, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Elon Musk.