Tesla Driver Monitoring Doesn’t Prevent Distracted Driving, Consumer Reports Says

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There was perhaps a relief when Tesla finally activated the camera above the internal rear-view mirror to monitor drivers. It was supposedly a way to avoid distracted driving and abuse of Autopilot and FSD. Unfortunately, it seems it was just a marketing effort: Consumer Reports discovered it does not curb bad behavior in any way.
The consumer organization tested the camera in two Tesla vehicles it owns: a 2022 Model Y and a 2022 Model S. Curiously, Tesla’s page about the cabin camera – as it calls the equipment – says the Model S does not have that function. It states features based on the internal camera are only available in the Model 3 and the Model Y with Tesla Vision. It may be the case that the Model S now also offers that feature and that Tesla has not updated its website. We’ll ask CR about that.

The truth is that the consumer organization discovered that drivers could still turn Autopilot on if they were looking away from the road or using their phones. It also does not take any actions if the camera is blocked, meaning you could just cover it and activate Autopilot: it would work as if nothing happened.

Finally, CR also determined that FSD also works with the camera obstructed. The only difference the cabin camera made was to reduce the time people could have their hands off the wheel. In theory, they could never do that, and the torque sensors would be there to ensure that does not happen. The consumer organization already showed it is easy to dodge these safeguards. The hope was that the cabin camera would avoid that.

The only system CR has already tested that really intervenes if it detects distracted driving when engaged is GM’s Super Cruise. When its camera was covered, that disabled the ADAS (advanced driver-assistance system), and you could not turn it on while the issue with the camera persisted. In other words, the camera is actually part of the system – not just a decorative element put there for people not to ask questions. The customer organization did not test Ford’s BlueCruise.

This is one of the reasons specialists think NHTSA either does not have the technical expertise to regulate the use of these driving aids or is not interested in sorting this out. The recent nomination of Missy Cummings as a senior adviser shows the safety agency may be willing to do change that perception. CR’s latest article points out something in which NHTSA should act as soon as possible.
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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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