There is no doubt the decision by Elon Musk and Tesla to hide the fact it has installed cameras that point at the driver and rest of the interior of the Model 3, is a bad one.
Already dubbed “secret” cameras, speculation is mounting as to the reason for including them in the cars.
Musk and Tesla saying they aren’t activated yet only adds to the mystery, because it suggests consumers are paying full price for cars that aren’t completely functional.
Not saying anything as to their purpose only adds more fuel to the fire.
The secret cameras are located on the rear view mirror. A company spokesman said the cameras will be activated once software is updated in the future. Does that mean in order to quickly get the vehicles released to conform with the release date, Tesla allowed the apparently uncompleted camera to be included in the vehicle?
What is an immediate concern beyond some of the practicals we’ll get into in a moment, is how this camera could be abused in regard to privacy. It could gather visual data people would be uncomfortable with if it was seen by anyone else. It could easily be transitioned to a spy camera for the government or other entities that are able to gain access to, or hack it.
Some following the industry say that in the past it has been asserted in order for vehicles to perform at level three autonomous driving, they would need cameras facing the driver. The assumption is the camera would monitor the attention span of the driver as the car is being driven.
Level three is when a vehicle is driving and using the driver as a backup in case of problems. It’s possible the camera would essentially be used as a system to nag the drivers if their attention span falters.
Since this is more work than regular driving, it would be a very undesirable stage to work with if you’re the driver. Tesla and others need to quickly move beyond that once the software is fully developed, which appears to be what is holding the activation of the camera up.
Another key question is why, according to Electrek, does the camera cover more than the driver? Instead, as mentioned earlier, it takes in all of the cabin of the vehicle.
With growth of the Internet of Things and voices assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, part of the reason for the camera could be to gather data in the vehicle in order to upload it to Tesla to sell to companies in the voice assistant market.
One company that has recently started doing that with its latest products is iRobot, which has outfitted its Robovacs with a camera in order to scan the rooms it cleans in order to not only avoid obstacles, but also to gather data to sell.
This would make sense with any area where people are located, because it can uncover what their habits are and potential ways to build products or services to match those habits.
The world is rapidly moving toward a voice assistant world, and wherever people are, there will be cameras located to monitor their activities. The potential for abuse is extraordinary, as it the ability to better serve consumers and businesses.
As is usual with all areas of life, more than likely there are multiple reasons behind the camera in the Model 3; we’re only going to hear about those that apply to driving, or possibly, data gathering.
I personally don’t like the fact Tesla and Musk hid the cameras from the public. Being the consummate marketer he is, it may be for no other reason than he didn’t want to give the impression the vehicle wasn’t fully ready for primetime.
It’s already been proven by experts in hacking that these cars can be taken control of by someone outside of the vehicle. To think of someone taking over your privacy by hacking into the camera isn’t a desirable idea to contemplate.
After employees in Wisconsin recently voluntarily allowed themselves to be embedded with chips, it’s doubtful we’ll hear much opposition to the cameras. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential to interfere with our privacy.
Worse, the government could eventually use some reason to use the cameras to get access to what is going on in a vehicle. And with the way many of our freedoms are being taken away, it would probably find ways to do it without a warrant.
What is potentially diabolical about this is the camera would be considered benign by most, and easily could be a trojan horse for spying on people. Of course we’ll get all the assurances of this never happening and how wonderful the concept of autonomous cars are, but it doesn’t take away the fact it could be used to violate our privacy and freedoms on an ongoing basis.
While the solution of covering up the camera so it can’t see is obvious, if the vehicle can’t be autonomous without it, the driver is in a catch-22 situation. Maybe driving with a traditional car would be the best route to go until we see how we can defend ourselves against this potential creepy intrusion into our lives.