Tesla Cabin Cameras During Autopilot Need to Do Better: Consumer Reports

In a series of recently conducted tests, nonprofit consumer organization Consumer Reports found that Tesla’s camera-based driver monitoring for its driver assistance features, “fails to keep driver attention on the road,” during Autopilot.

When Tesla ditched radar earlier this year for a purely camera-based approach to driver assistance technologies like Autopilot and its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta, it enabled in-cabin cameras to monitor drivers and make sure they have their eyes on the road and are paying attention while using those technologies.

The move was met with mixed reactions, with Consumer Reports raising “privacy concerns” over the use of in-car cameras back in March.

CR also followed those concerns up with an experiment using props to “defeat” Tesla’s camera-based driver monitoring solution.

The organization’s most recent testing concluded that:

  • Drivers could still use Autopilot if they were looking away from the road and while using their phone.
  • Even if the vehicle’s camera was obscured, Autopilot remained active and didn’t prohibit the driver from using the system.
  • We could use Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software with the vehicle’s camera blocked.

“It is proven that drivers pay less attention to the road when a vehicle is automating some driving tasks, and therefore they may have trouble reacting in time in an emergency if they need to take back control,” said Kelly Funkhouser, Manager for Vehicle Technology at Consumer Reports.

CR praised GM’s Super Cruise instead for better monitoring of drivers, as the latter uses infrared cameras to detect driver eyes and also head position.

While Tesla ranked poorly in Consumer Reports‘s 2021 auto reliability report, its cars were ranked “most satisfying” in a survey of car owners conducted back in February.