Tesla Data Is Now Something All Forensic Labs Can Read Thanks to the Dutch

Whenever an accident happens with a Tesla, authorities request information and get whatever Tesla is willing to share. That will end soon, thanks to NFI (Netherlands Forensic Institute). They have decrypted Tesla’s data storage system and discovered that the company only shares what it reputes as convenient.
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Reuters revealed an example given by NFI. It was about a crash in which a driver on Autopilot rear-ended another vehicle. The Dutch forensic lab did not say what Tesla shared regarding that accident. Still, it discovered that the driver was paying careful attention and that they regained control of the car as soon as Autopilot warned them to do that.

As NFI discovered, the issue was that Autopilot was tailgating the vehicle ahead while it controlled the Tesla, which made the crash inevitable. That will undoubtedly change how courts decide about responsibility in lawsuits. Objectively – and despite all the legal disclaimers with which Tesla tries to shield itself against responsibility when Autopilot is active – the software was to blame, not the driver.

NFI confirmed that Tesla does share the information required by authorities but that it leaves out plenty of data that could be useful in investigations. The distance from the car ahead in the situation described above is a good example. In other words, the company can omit part of the information if authorities do not remember to ask for it.

With cracking Tesla’s code, NFI now does not depend on it to discover what it needs to know. In fact, the Dutch forensic lab presented these findings at the European Association for Accident Research to share its discovery with other crash investigation analysts. They would better hurry: Tesla may be working on more robust encryption for that data right now.

Curiously, there is a legal principle in many countries that states no one is obliged to produce evidence against themselves in investigations. The fact that Tesla already collects this data prevents it from using that principle. After all, evidence is already there in data banks. Tampering with it can be framed as a stand-alone criminal offense.


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