A hacker has discovered that the camera used by the Tesla Autopilot system automatically records crash footage, reports Inverse.
Up until now, it was not known that the roof-mounted camera stores any footage at all. Its primary function is to collect the data needed for the Autopilot system to drive the car autonomously.
The hacker, Jason Hughes from North Carolina, made the discovery have after being involved in an crash in his own Model S. He started digging into the car’s computers to see if any data about the crash had been stored and found that it had. He subsequently bought the central display unit from another Model S that had been stripped after a crash and interrogated the Media Control Unit [MCU], where he found footage of the crash. He posted it on Twitter, as you can see below.
Speaking to Inverse, Hughes explained how he found the footage. “I kind of knew what I was looking for, since I had messed with it on my own car,” he said. “It’s not too terribly difficult. You have to basically gain root access to the MCU and such. Tesla’s likely going to make that more difficult. I won’t say it’s simple, but it’s not impossible.”
Hughes believes the footage is recorded in the event of an airbag deployment. It “takes some amount of time - about 20 seconds” for the footage to be stored, he reckons. Due to the speed of the transfer, the resolution of the footage is significantly reduced. But the delay means that in crashes that destroy the camera, such as the fatal Autopilot crash that occurred in May this year, the footage would not be recorded.
Given how useful dashcam footage is becoming in settling insurance claims resulting from crashes, it’s curious that Tesla has made the footage recorded by the Autopilot camera so difficult to access. At the time of writing, Tesla has not commented on Hughes’ discovery.