A well known Tesla white-hat hacker, known only as “green” on Twitter (@greentheonly), has revealed — to some extent — what the Tesla selfie cam is watching out for.
What’s the Tesla selfie cam? It’s a camera right behind the rearview mirror in a Tesla vehicle. Here’s a look from inside my Tesla Model 3 from close up and from further back (you most likely need to click the second image and zoom in to see the camera in that one).
Elon Musk has said before that the selfie cam is not being used yet, and that it’s in the cars for when they become self-driving cars/robotaxis.
Despite not being in use yet, though, “green” has identified what this sole interior camera is set up to watch and take notes about. Have a look:
In case you were wondering what does the selfie camera in model 3 currently try to detect:— green (@greentheonly) October 4, 2020
On the first tag, “BLINDED,” the car is logically set up to notice if the selfie cam is blinded. If someone has hailed a Tesla robotaxi and the selfie cam becomes blinded, I presume that it would tell the car to stop and notify Tesla HQ and wait until the issue is fixed before continuing service.
I have no real idea what the car’s reaction would be to noticing that it’s dark inside the vehicle unless that’s simply an indicator to show that the camera isn’t fully blinded but that it may not be able to capture things well due to low lighting.
Naturally, at a stage where the Tesla isn’t yet capable of 100% self-driving service unmonitored by a human, it could be useful to see if the driver’s eyes are closed or looking down away from the road. The system could then give a warning — perhaps a loud warning — that the driver should open their eyes or look up or else the car will pull over and park itself.
There’s also a tag to indicate if the driver uses their phone, which could be very useful if Tesla wanted to be proactive about discouraging texting while driving, something that is as dangerous as drunk driving.
Showing just how nuanced it gets, though, you have two tags regarding sunglasses — one indicating that someone has sunglasses on but is probably watching the road and suggesting that someone has sunglasses on. Still, their eyes are likely not on the road.
I’m not sure what “HEAD_TRUNC” stands for, but I’d assume it means the driver’s head is “truncated” — not in the view of the camera.
A final note from me: I’m not sure how useful it is to know if the driver’s head is facing left or right. I’m sure that it is helpful, but nothing comes to mind except perhaps as evidence in a crash case.