Tesla CEO Elon Musk has clarified that the tiny camera installed in the Model 3’s rear-view mirror is part of the hardware for the Tesla Network, the company’s upcoming ride-sharing program. Musk specified that the tiny device is not currently enabled, though it will eventually play a part in assisting future autonomous vehicle fleets, which will be competing with the likes of Uber and Lyft.
“It’s there for when we start competing with Uber/Lyft & people allow their car to earn money for them as part of the Tesla shared autonomy fleet. In case someone messes up your car, you can check the video,” Musk wrote.
Apart from being a component that can monitor the activities of ride-sharing passengers, the Model 3 interior camera can also be used as part of Tesla’s security system. Tesla has already rolled out security-focused updates for its vehicles’ cameras, such as an improvement to Dashcam that allowed footage to be recorded from the electric cars’ sides. Sentry Mode, a monitoring program intended to mitigate theft, also relies on input from vehicles’ cameras. Musk noted that the interior camera of the Model 3 can be used to provide footage for these security features, though owners will have the option to deactivate the component.
“Also, it can be used to supplement cameras on outside of vehicle, as it can see through 2nd side windows & rear window. Only external cameras are being used right now, so internal is not enabled. When it is enabled, we’ll add a setting to disable internal camera,” Musk wrote.
Musk’s vision of a ride-sharing future using autonomous Tesla cars is part of his “Master Plan, Part Deux” published on July 20, 2016. It’s still on Tesla’s website and reads as follows: “You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost. Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving car is likely to be several times that of a car which is not. In cities where demand exceeds the supply of customer-owned cars, Tesla will operate its own fleet, ensuring you can always hail a ride from us no matter where you are.“
The Tesla Network’s success will rely heavily on how well Tesla can develop and roll out its Full Self-Driving suite. Fortunately, Tesla and Elon Musk have given numerous hints that big developments have been made with its autonomous driving initiatives. An Autonomy Investor Day was announced to take place at Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto on April 22nd, and the primary topic is set to be discussion of the Full Self-Driving roadmap and strategy, along with test drives featuring functionalities still in development. Musk also announced that a public livestream would accompany the event, altogether explaining the status of Tesla’s autonomous software in depth.