Your Tesla is watching you—whether or not you’re watching the road


In the wake of Tesla’s first recorded autopilot crash, automakers are reassessing the risk involved with rushing semi-autonomous driving technology into the hands of distractible drivers. But another aspect of autopilot—its ability to hoover up huge amounts of mapping and “fleet learning” data—is also accelerating the auto industry’s rush to add new sensors to showroom-bound vehicles. This may surprise some users: Tesla’s Terms of Use (TOU) does not explicitly state that the company will release information captured by its vehicles when there is no clear legal need for it. That doesn’t mean they can’t, however, it all comes down to how you interpret the wording. Whether or not Tesla’s public disclosures of vehicle data fall under a reasonable interpretation of its TOU is a matter of legal interpretation. As a practical matter, however, the company’s failure to clearly disclose that it could publicly release characterizations of owner driving data could potentially lead to a backlash from privacy-minded consumers, especially as Tesla attempts to bring its technology to a mass market.

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