When Tesla activated the cabin-facing camera within the Model 3 and Model Y in June with the 2020.24.5 Software Update, the company admitted that it would help engineer develop safety features and enhancements for the future. However, new developments have been revealed by a notorious Tesla hacker, who has shown the coding for the cabin camera, and what facial features the function will look for to increase safety.
Tesla hacker @greentheonly revealed the specific things that the cabin camera is looking for after finding the software for the feature. A series of facial features and head positions are described within the software, and appear to be looking for ways to make drivers more aware and increase the safety of the vehicles.
Among the detected facial expressions are BLINDED, DARK, EYES_CLOSED, EYES_DOWN, EYES_NOMINAL, EYES_UP, HEAD_DOWN, HEAD_TRUNC, LOOKING_LEFT, LOOKING_RIGHT, PHONE_USE, SUNGLASSES_EYES_LIKELY_NOMINAL, and SUNGLASSES_LIKELY_EYES_DOWN.
The interesting developments from the newly revealed coding show that the cabin camera will now be used by Tesla to increase safety and driver awareness. One of the most obvious indications of this is the PHONE_USE code, which will likely recognize and indicate when the driver’s eyes have left the road and have focused on a Smartphone instead.
Interestingly, just a few days ago, Tesla received a sixth-place ranking on the Assisted Driving Grading survey from the Euro NCAP tests. The lower ratings were due to poor scores in the “Driver Engagement” metric, where the Model 3 scored only a 35 out of 100.
The lack of a driver monitoring system on the Euro NCAP tests significantly affected the Model 3’s scoring on the test. It seems that Tesla is already preparing for the cabin camera to capture this data to increase vehicle safety.
However, recognizing any movement or facial feature that could be a distraction to driving could be used with Tesla’s in-house insurance suite to determine a driver’s rates. For example, if the cabin camera detects PHONE_USE more often than the average driver, rates could be increased because the driver is not giving their undivided attention to the road.
The likely scenario is to increase the driver monitoring system, which Tesla lacked according to the NCAP tests—expanding the driver’s awareness of what is going on while driving is crucial, especially with Tesla’s self-driving and semi-autonomous functionalities. There is plenty of evidence that many people who utilize the FSD or Autopilot features do not use them correctly because they require the owner to continue to keep their hands on the wheel and remain aware of driving conditions.
However, some owners have seen Tesla’s features as an opportunity to be less responsible on the road. The company has repeatedly stated that the cars are not yet fully-autonomous. Drivers are required to continue monitoring their vehicle’s performance. The cabin camera’s monitoring system could be a pivotal way to eliminate the possibility of less-than-ideal awareness while driving a Tesla.