When Tesla first unveiled the Model 3, keen eyed fans were quick to notice there was a small pin-sized camera above the rear-view mirror. The odd thing about the camera is that it was facing the inside of the cabin, and not facing outwards to support the other cameras for Autopilot.
The rumours started quickly, with some suggesting it was to monitor the drivers eyes to ensure they were paying attention to the road while using Autopilot. Other fans thought it could be used to monitor passengers in the car when you weren’t.
Turns out those fans were correct, after Tesla CEO Elon Musk explained on Twitter it would be used for when Tesla starts their Robotaxi network, which may still be this year. In case anyone damaged your vehicle, you would be able to review the footage and find the culprit.
It’s there for when we start competing with Uber/Lyft & people allow their car to earn money for them as part of the Tesla shared autonomy fleet. In case someone messes up your car, you can check the video.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 5, 2019
With the Robotaxi network still to come, owners still do not have access to the camera, but we may soon after Musk agreed to add the cameras as part of the Sentry Mode cameras in case someone breaks into your car.
But now we have our first still images from the camera thanks to Tesla hacker @greentheonly, who was able to gain access to the camera to give us in idea of how much of the interior cabin it can actually see.
From a technical standpoint, the camera features the same Aptina sensor as the other cameras on the vehicle, according to @greentheonly. The resolution is also the same at 1280×960.
As some suggested, the views from the camera could be useful for monitoring the driver while Autopilot is engaged. However the steering wheel and arms of the driver are not visible, making eye-tracking appear to be the only possible to way to monitor driver attention.
For Musk’s intended use of monitoring passengers when part of the Robotaxi fleet, the camera coverage leaves out important areas of the cabin. For the front passenger, there is no view of their arms, nor can you see the dash or glovebox.
For the rear passengers, the left and right rear passengers are mostly blocked from view by the front seats. The only rear passenger that the camera can get a good view of is the one in the cramped middle seat (they’re always the trouble makers anyway).
@greentheonly also notes that the camera does not provide any extra views of the outside, making it a supplement to the Autopilot cameras impossible.
While the camera does appear to provide a limited view of the interior, the view is does give is much better than the view currently available, which is nothing. It will also provide some much needed extra footage of the interior when someone tries to break into your car.
It will also be interesting to see if Tesla has made any improvements to the camera in the newly-released Model Y, or if the view will be better thanks to the larger interior of the electric SUV.
What do you think of the view from the camera? Will this be useful for when your Tesla is part of the Robotaxi fleet? Will it be useful for when someone breaks into your car?