Tesla Model 3 to Driver: Look Me in the Eye

The car comes with a cabin camera that will only function later, when autonomous driving software is downloaded

2 min read
interior of tesla model 3
The camera's lens is buried in the support of the rear-view mirror.
Photo: Tesla

Driver-facing cameras aren’t a new idea: Cadillac’s CTS Super Cruise uses an infrared camera to monitor your eyes for signs of inattention. So does Audi’s new A8, billed as the world’s first car capable of Level 3 autonomy.

So you’d expect Tesla to put one in its new Model 3, given that it’s supposed to have all the hardware it’ll need for both Level 3 and Level 4 autonomy. (Level 3 requires the driver to be prepared to take control, but Level 4 does not.)

The funny thing, though, is that the Model 3’s driver-oriented camera isn’t turned on. In fact, its very presence wasn’t mentioned by the company or noticed by the auto writers who first drove the car. So a tip of the hat goes to Fred Lambert, who confirmed the camera’s existence yesterday, in Electrotek.

According to Elon Musk, all that’s needed for full-bore self-driving power is an over-the-air software download. That, however, won’t come until regulators allow it. So don’t hold your breath. Same goes for actual, on-the-road autonomy for the Audi A8.

Another funny thing is the deliberate inclusion of what you might call sleeper hardware. You’re selling customers something that is of no use now, but will be—you say—later on. Sleeperware is something you don’t often seen in techland because of the fast product turnover, but even cars practically never have it. 

My first encounter with sleeperware dates back to 1993, when my office upgraded to Macintosh computers that each had a little indentation right above the screen. 

“What in the world is that,” I asked a colleague. “It’s a built-in microphone—they think computers will be used as communications devices,” he responded. Hah, I thought.

But it happened, and fast—within the working life of those 1993-era desktop machines. So maybe the Model 3 you’re driving will one day drive you.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images
Green

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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