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Tesla Receives More Bad News for Its Driver-assist Autopilot – TheStreet


Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc Report has placed a lot on the shoulders of its driver-assistance system Autopilot. 
The electric vehicle maker dominates the current EV market landscape but there are competitors with the capital and name recognition ready to give the upstart company a run for its money. 
Tesla will have to rely on its tech to differentiate itself from these competitors and the company has invested heavily in one particular piece of tech over the past few years: Autopilot.
Autopilot allows Tesla driver's to take their hands off the wheel and let the cars computer navigate traffic. Drivers are still required to keep their attention on the road while Autopilot is engaged. 
The company's self-driving technology is seen as one of the auto industry's most sophisticated, but it has also seen increasing scrutiny in recent years. 
Last month, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey sent a letter to Tesla CEO Elon Musk raising "significant concerns" about the company's Autopilot and FSD (full self-driving) systems, according to Reuters
Tesla's senior director, public policy and business development Rohan Patel responded to the letter two weeks ago saying that the extra features allow its drivers "to drive safer than the average driver in the U.S." He also noted that both systems "require the constant monitoring and attention of the driver."
But a new lawsuit claims that the car is constantly monitoring the driver and this violates the driver's rights. 
Tesla's Autopilot uses eight cameras around the vehicle to gather a full 360 degree view, facilitating the technology that allows the car to navigate through traffic hands-free. 
However, in May 2021 Tesla released a driver monitoring system software update that turned on a cabin-facing camera already built into its vehicles that would detect the attention of a driver while autopilot was in use. 
This monitoring is a violation of the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act, according to a class action lawsuit filed last week. 
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial to determine whether Tesla is violating BIPA's provisions requiring a company to inform the subject in writing that biometric information will be collected or stored; inform the person in writing of the specific purpose and length of term for which biometric identifiers; and receive a written release from the subject for the collection of their biometric data. 
"This case is about an electric car technology company capturing, collecting, storing, and using Plaintiff’s and other consumers’ biometric identifiers and/or biometric information without regard to BIPA and the privacy rights that BIPA protects," the lawsuit states. 
It also states that the in-cabin camera extracts drivers' biometric facial geometry which Tesla uses to track their head positions and eye gazes. If the driver is found to be inattentive, Autopilot disengages and the driver must take over the steering function.
This data collection "exposes consumers to serious and irreversible privacy risks," according to the lawsuit. 
Tesla does not have a media department. A request for comment via Twitter went unanswered. 
Tesla has put a lot into developing its self-driving capabilities and has subsequently passed that cost onto consumers. 
Musk took to Twitter in January to announce that the company is raising the price of FSD (Full self-driving, a more advanced system compared to Autopilot) to $12,000 in the U.S. with a promise that the cost of the software suite will continue to rise. FSD has more advanced features compared to Autopilot.
FSD has experienced multiple price increases over the past couple of years. The price was just $7,000 as recently as 2020. 
It's costly and controversial, but is Tesla's suite of self-driving software safe?"
A Tesla Model 3 on Autopilot crashed into an emergency vehicle in Taiwan on March 7. The driver admitted to police that he turned the Autopilot feature on and did not pay attention to the road in the moments leading up to the crash, according to Autoevolution.com


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