< Show all posts

Big Brother in the car!

We already knew that a Tesla car is packed with useful technology. But the fact that this technology can also betray its drivers is probably new to many.

A Tesla records everything that happens and appears around it: the road, the signs and the traffic. But the interior is also recorded for all it's worth, the driver or passenger, for example. In addition, any actions of the occupants and the technology are recorded:  When do the doors open, when does the engine start? It should be clear that all of this is intended to contribute to safety; after all, it is the manufacturer's declared goal to send a completely driverless vehicle out on the road in the future.

But the car's collecting mania also has disadvantages for those who cause accidents: this is what happened to a driver in Berlin who hit a traffic light at 160 km/h, decided to abandon the broken car and flee with his female passenger. Tesla had recorded all of this, the entry into the car, the crash and the escape as well as the driver's driving and braking behaviour, the speed of the vehicle, the location of the impact and much more. At the request of the Berlin public prosecutor's office, Tesla passed on all the recorded data to the investigators. This made it easy to prove that the vehicle owner and the person who caused the accident were at fault for what happened, to sentence him to a heavy fine and to revoke his driving licence for a year. But the recordings can also be exculpatory. The case of a Tesla driver who cut off the right of way of a motorbike, seriously injured the latter and yet got off with a lenient sentence became well-known -- because his car had recorded the motorcyclist crashing into his Tesla at an increased speed. Therefore, he was attributed a significant part of the blame.

Data protectionists naturally throw their hands up in horror at so much collection mania. But Tesla waves it off: the images taken by the car's cameras are not automatically transmitted to Tesla. Only the anonymised transmission of safety-critical events can be requested. Like the Berlin investigators did. The driver can also circumvent his seamless monitoring by actively objecting to the data transmission. However, according to Tesla, this can result in "limited functionality, serious damage or inability to function". This is a risk that very few people are willing to take.

This is a brave new future we have before us. Will environmental zone offences soon be automatically forwarded?