Walter Isaacson’s biography of Tesla CEO Elon Musk has uncovered several intriguing revelations. The latest revelation raises serious questions as to whether or not Tesla values its drivers’ privacy.
In his book, Isaacson shows how Musk wanted to spy on drivers to defend Tesla from lawsuits.
Musk insisted on using the internal monitoring camera in Tesla vehicles to record drivers’ behaviors behind the wheel. This driver behavior was to be used as evidence to safeguard the company during investigations following accidents. By recording driver behavior, Musk could argue that driver error led to the accidents rather than Tesla technology.
While most car manufacturers employ internal cameras to monitor driver attentiveness and issue warnings, Musk envisioned Tesla taking it a step further. The book highlights Musk’s push to collect data from the car’s cameras, including the one focused on the driver, to establish instances of driver error. Drivers were not to be informed about the monitoring.
However, during a meeting, a Tesla manager raised concerns regarding privacy. The manager pointed out that Musk’s driver monitoring technology would not be able to link the recorded footage to specific vehicles, even in the event of a crash.
Musk ignored the manager’s concerns. However, he did back down somewhat on his idea to spy on drivers without their consent.
Musk proposed a pop-up message, informing customers that data would be collected if they used the Full Self-Driving Beta feature. This placated the manager.
The pop-up exists in current Tesla vehicles and explains how the company plans to use data from the internal camera. Drivers are given the choice to agree or disagree with Tesla collecting cabin camera data.
It’s important to note that Tesla has not yet used internal vehicle images in legal disputes or investigations relating to the Autopilot system.
Even with Tesla’s use of pop-up messages, there continues to be numerous privacy complaints against the company.
According to InsideEVs, Tesla is currently facing multiple class action lawsuits regarding video privacy. In one lawsuit, plaintiffs are alleging that groups of Tesla employees privately shared highly invasive videos captured by customers’ car cameras between 2019 and 2022.
Another lawsuit in Illinois specifically focuses on privacy violations involving the cabin camera.
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