Tesla Autopilot has always required and will require full driver attention for the foreseeable future. Tesla enforced this by detecting whether torque was being applied to the steering wheel.
Tesla has relied on this method since the introduction of Autopilot, but unfortunately there have been several flaws with it for years.
Since Tesla is looking for a certain amount of force to be applied to the steering wheel, sometimes the car can ask for the driver’s attention even when the driver is attentive and their hands are on the steering wheel. The interval that the car checks for active participation has changed over the years, but with it being somewhere around 30-60 seconds, it can sometimes become an annoyance to drivers.
The second reason that detecting torque on the steering wheel doesn’t work well as a driver monitoring system is that it is easily defeated. There have been numerous devices that mimic the force of hands on the steering wheel and let's face it, it doesn’t lead to anything good for the driver or Tesla.
Yesterday we saw the first vehicles to introduce a true driver monitoring system. For vehicles with a cabin camera, which include all Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, Tesla will be able to turn on their camera-based driver monitoring system (DMS). It appears that the feature is currently limited to the US and only for radar-less cars, but we expect this to change in the future. The release notes for 2021.4.15.11 state that:
The cabin camera above your rearview mirror can now detect and alert driver inattentiveness while Autopilot is engaged. Camera data does not leave the car itself, which means the system cannot save or transmit information unless data shared is enabled. To change your data settings, tap Controls > Safety & Security > Data Sharing on your car's touchscreen.
Much like Tesla implements FSD, the cabin camera will be recording and analyzing the video stream and attempting to detect several objects and driver attributes. Each attribute then gets a probability assigned to it. If the threshold is high enough for any given attribute that Tesla deems as the driver not paying attention, then the car can take additional action from there such as turn off Autopilot, pull over or ask the driver to pay attention.
According to GreenTheOnly on Twitter, the camera will be detecting whether the driver is looking down or to the side and tracking eye movement and detecting other things as well such as whether the driver is wearing sunglasses and how well the camera can see. Although Tesla is looking for a variety of distractions, it looks like they are only currently triggering alerts when the driver is on their phone and not looking at the road.
The first cars have started rolling out with this feature enabled and it hasn't replaced Tesla’s steering wheel torque detection, but is providing another layer of protection. We hope as Tesla expands its capability in the future it may one day replace having your hands on the Tesla wheel completely.
Tesla has also recently rolled out detecting whether there is a driver in the driver’s seat during the use of Autopilot. It’s possible Tesla will create an algorithm with all of these attributes and ultimately decide whether the driver is paying attention or not. This could greatly reduce the amount of times the driver is asked to pay attention when they already are and also increase safety by reminding us when we’re not.
Several covered-up Model 3s have been found over the past of days
@omg_tesla & CloudWalking
If it isn’t the worst-looking LeBra ever made, then what is it? This oddly covered-up Model 3 appeared in the wild just days after Reuters reported Tesla was revamping the popular car. The plot thickens as Teslarati reports the license plates to indicate the vehicle is from Tesla. But what is the biggest secret under the horribly fitting covers?
Twitter user @omg_tesla spotted the car in a parking garage in Santa Cruz, California. Twitter users filled the replies with a lot of speculation. But of interest, the cabin of the car is wide open and visible. This eliminates a lot of conjecture that this is a revamped version. There is a belief the company is trying to cut costs to get the Model 3 under $55,000 to qualify for the US tax incentive in 2023. However, some cost savings will be found in the Model 3’s interior.
That would lead us to believe that the only secret things on this car are some design changes in the front and back. However, on close examination, it doesn’t appear to be different than the current Model 3. The headlights look the same if you follow the lining and the taillights look identical to what is in production as well.
Reddit user CloudWalking, found a different Model 3 similarly covered up a couple of days later.
Twitter user @Aiaddict1, who's a former Tesla employee, tweeted: Tesla policy requires employees who use certain eng fleet cars in public to always use a car cover when parked in public if the vehicle is equipped with hardware not known or available to the public. I know this as I used to drive the eng fleet prototypes. This looks to be one.
Whatever is under those odd covers remains a mystery. Reuters reported that the Tesla revamp, called Project Highland, would start to roll off production lines in the third quarter of 2023. They also quoted Ed Kim, president of AutoPacific Group, who said, “consumers still tend to equate visual changes with newness. Tesla knows visually tangible changes are in order. The upcoming changes that potential customers can see and feel will be very important in ensuring that EV customers still have Tesla at the top of their minds as truly excellent alternatives to Tesla are starting to flood the market.”
Nevertheless, Twitter "detectives" joked that this is the newest Tesla paint protection, bug screen or perhaps automotive underwear. Personally, I think if the covers were off, it would’ve drawn far less attention as there are a lot of Teslas in California, but none sporting these covers.
It's not clear what Tesla is testing with these vehicles, although it doesn't appear to be related to the "revamp" of the Model 3. However, it very likely includes some sort of changes that haven't been publicly announced yet.
A sketch of a two-door Cybertruck can be found at the Peterson Automotive Museum
The Tesla crowd of enthusiasts has eyes everywhere. Twitter user @MissJilianne caused quite a stir after visiting the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, which recently opened a new Tesla exhibit. The Model S Plaid owner and FSD Beta tester posted a few pictures of her visit, including some artwork at the Cybertruck display.
The artistic design shows the Cybertruck in a two-door version. Miss Jilianne asks: Are we not going to talk about the beautiful artwork of a two door Cybertruck displayed at the @Petersen_Museum Tesla exhibit?
Her tweet generated discussion on social platforms and Tesla blogs, and it had mixed reactions. @KounisTou tweeted: It's not only that, but it has a totally different, dare I say better looking? A-pillar design with a wraparound windshield like early Semi prototype. Looks great. Except maybe that it looks a bit too much like a Lamborghini.
That may be the biggest clue to this spectacular piece of art. Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla's chief designer, is a huge fan of the “wedge” design. He grew up with Lamborghini Countach posters on his wall. Other responses to the picture believe it is the origin of the piece of art. It is likely an early sketch of what the Cybertruck could look like, and there were likely several. Given von Holzhausen’s love for the Countach, this is quite likely an early concept he was sketching out.
Elon Musk has publicly stated his support for a smaller truck. On November 24, 2019, he tweeted: Long term, it probably makes sense to build a smaller Cybertruck too.
However, the four-door version is due in 2023. CNBC interviewed von Holzhausen right in front of the Cybertruck. He stated, “Cybertruck will look, for all intents and purposes, just like the one behind us, maybe slightly smaller, a few percentages, but in general, this is what the truck will look like.”
Still, the designer did say something else during that interview that leaves the door open for a possible two-door Cybertruck. The creative mind behind the Model S, 3, X, Y, Semi and Cybertruck was asked to pick a favorite. His response was, "My favorite one is the one that is coming. I can't talk about (it).”
For a man that loves sports cars, it was believed that he was referring to the second-generation Roadster. Maybe he is referring to a smaller Cybertruck that looks a lot like those wedge cars that inspired him to become a car designer.
Tesla has a history of providing sketches to early reservation holders of their vehicles. It waits to be seen whether Tesla will do the same for the Cybertruck when deliveries start next year.
Below you'll find other sketches that Tesla provided to Model S, 3 and X reservation holders.
Model S Sketch
An early sketch of the Model S that was given to owners
Model 3 Sketch
A sketch of the Model 3 was given to owners who reserved the vehicle on the first night
Model X Sketch
An early sketch of the Model X that was initially given to owners of the Model X
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