Tesla is trying to catch up to the rest of the automotive field with its driver monitoring. While other automakers have been using cameras for a while now to ensure the driver is paying attention to the road, Tesla has been relying on steering wheel feedback – until now. The result of that approach is the notorious “Tesla nagging” – messages and audible warnings if the car doesn’t sense enough input from the driver.
This is about the change – a Twitter user @greentheonly discovered new lines of code that indicate Tesla is stepping up its monitoring game. There is a driver-facing camera in every Tesla car, and it has been there for a while. Since 2021 it was used to ensure the driver keeps eyes on the road and isn’t using a handheld device. It all changes now with the new code.
Looks like Tesla is planning a big boost to (camera based) driver monitoring.
They are now tracking additional things like how many yawns the driver had recently, how many blinks and how long they were, leaning. All this is to calculate how drowsy the driver is.
— green (@greentheonly) May 13, 2023
The added functionality is quite advanced, as before it monitors the eyes, and apart from making sure driver’s eyes are peeled to the road, the camera now counts eye blinks. And not just counts them – it measures the timing and length of each blink. It measures the head position and watches for any leaning as well, and on top of that it counts yawns.
This is a big step up from Tesla, the new monitoring is engaged constantly regardless if the Autopilot or FSD are in use or not. The software keeps the track of how many lane-assist warnings were triggered, how well-centered the vehicle is in the lane, and how many corrections the system had to apply to ensure the driver is paying attention to the road.
While Tesla wasn’t really interested in driver monitoring to start with because it had high hopes for its FSD, the reality is forcing the company to rethink its approach. Since the FSD has been demoted to Level 2, and thanks to its ever-delayed development, the company decided it’s safer to monitor the driver’s attention rather than hoping for the FSD to save the day.
It is a step in the right direction for Tesla, it has the potential to improve overall road safety. At the same time, it feels like an admission that the FSD will take much longer to become the Holy Grail of autonomous driving – and that’s actually good. Tesla is finally pulling its head out of the sand and focusing on the driver rather than the pipe dream. FSD will come when it’s ready, and when it is ready it will blow the socks off competition – but it will take a while longer. For now, let’s make sure we keep our eyes on the road.