Tesla Safety ‘Defeat’ Device Only Works on US Market Teslas

Tesla Safety ‘Defeat’ Device Only Works on US Market Teslas

For over a decade, Tesla has promised buyers that complete and total vehicular autonomy is right around the corner. So far, that has yet to be true, but it hasn’t stopped some folks from pretending otherwise — doing everything they can to avoid touching the steering wheel for as long as they can.

This has, of course, led to an aftermarket replete with “solutions” that extend the time between steering wheel touches. But an investigation from The Drive showed that those defeat devices really only work in the States — vehicles bound for other jurisdictions, curiously, don’t feature the same exploits. From The Drive:

For at least a year now, various online retailers have sold plug-and-play hardware that partially deactivates the driver monitoring system. One such seller, Teslaunch, which sells a “Nag Elimination Module” for $US139, explains how this works.

Apparently, some Teslas treat audio volume adjustments using the controls on the steering wheel as proof that the driver’s hands are on the wheel. At random five- to ten-second intervals, the module sends a signal to adjust the volume, tricking the monitoring system into thinking the driver’s hands are in place. The system isn’t totally overridden, as many Teslas use cameras to monitor where the driver is looking, but it’s still stripping back a layer of safety redundancy.

Curiously, this trick doesn’t work on all Teslas. Redditposters from outside the United States and Canada say their cars don’t register volume adjustments as steering inputs. That would mean Tesla has shipped (and may still be selling) cars with more easily circumvented safety software to customers in North America. Put another way, it’s selling Americans cars with lower safety standards.

The issue here isn’t one of tech security — U.S. cars aren’t sold with dated encryption, glaring zero-day exploits (that we know about), or other software. Instead, there’s just some truly odd criteria being looked at here. Why is volume considered a substitute for steering input? Is this some developer workaround that somehow made it to production, or is Tesla assuming that volume input from steering wheel buttons means that hands must be on the wheel?

The linked Teslaunch module claims compatibility with the updated 2024 “Highland” Model 3, so this workaround seems to still be present in U.S.-market Teslas. Why the distinction from global vehicles? For now, it seems no one knows.

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