MIT Researchers Paying Tesla Drivers For In-Car Surveillance Video

The world keeps getting weirder.

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We know a lot about autonomous driving. We grasp the technology, we can see how it works in basic application. We can comprehend the benefits. What we don’t understand are the complexities of human/car interactions. And, if the autonomous car is going to succeed, that information isn’t just important—it’s the key to everything. Which is why MIT researchers are going to pay Tesla owners $1,000 to spy on them while they drive.

The offer is part of a new initiative to study “which technologies people use or do not use, how people learn and interact with each technology, and which technologies promote safe driving.” To do that, MIT's AgeLab will install a suite of monitoring equipment into the Teslas of participating drivers. This kit monitors vehicle telemetry, GPS, records cabin audio, and logs video via multiple in-car webcams. Each component communicates with the others, deciphering patterns of driving behavior. The most impressive bit is the Gaze function (video below), which tracks the eye movements of drivers. Researchers will retrieve data and conduct interviews on a monthly basis to “analyze advanced vehicle technology use in real-world scenarios.”

Ultimately, MIT AgeLab wants to better understand how we drive, and ride along, in make vehicles safer. The program is certainly intrusive, but its empirical nature is definitely interesting. Currently, researchers are looking for potential test subjects in Boston, though the search might expand to other cities later.

So if you live in Beantown, own an Autopilot-capable Tesla Model S or X, and don’t mind being the focus of oddly intense techno-voyeurism, check out the MIT AgeLab study website here. Alternatively, if you know somebody fitting that description, and happen to also hate them, there’s a $200 reward for successful referrals. Spam away, you trolls. Spam away.