How to Turn Your Tesla Into an AI-Powered Surveillance Station

The AI-powered Surveillance Detection Scout also raises legal and ethical concerns

Tesla Model X
The Surveillance Detection Scout can plug into a Tesla Model X, 3 or S and begin to track faces and license plates.
By Alex Lauer / August 21, 2019 11:46 am

Truman Kain owns a Nest home security camera. The Google device promises 24/7 surveillance with phone alerts, which can send notifications based on facial recognition. Now, he wants to bring that same surveillance to your Tesla.

Kain, senior information security analyst at Tevora, has developed a new device called the Surveillance Detection Scout. As Wired describes it, the DIY computer plugs into the dashboard USB port of a Tesla Model S, 3 or X and uses the car’s built-in cameras to read license plates and faces to alert the driver if someone is following them. 

“It turns your Tesla into an AI-powered surveillance station,” Kain told the magazine. “It’s meant to be another set of eyes, to help out and tell you it’s seen a license plate following you over multiple days, or even multiple turns of a single trip.”

Unfortunately for interested Tesla owners, it’s not currently a plug-and-play device that you can buy online. You’ll need at least a little technological know-how to implement it yourself, but it’s doable. Basically, it starts with a small Nvidia Jetson Xavier AI computer, which analyzes the Tesla-captured video using software Kain uploaded for free on Github with help from the open source neural network Darknet as well as license plate and face tracking tools. “I’m just applying what’s already freely available, off the shelf,” Kain told Wired.

You can watch Kain explain the Surveillance Detection Scout in the YouTube video below:

So it’s possible, but is it ethical? “It’s essentially a surveillance camera on wheels, not providing anyone notice of that fact, mapping pieces of people’s paths through the cities they live in,” said the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Joseph Lorenzo Hall. He told Wired that aside from that, the pure fact of automatic facial and license plate tracking technology makes the device illegal at least in Arkansas, George, Illinois, Maine and New Hampshire.

“So I think there’s a real ethical issue there,” said Kain when Wired probed about the potential to connect multiple Surveillance Detection Scouts to create a larger unofficial surveillance network. Even the creator admits the immediate problems, but that’s not stopping him from using and promoting the technology.

From surveillance capabilities to hacking keyless entry, this is just another instance of the new technology being implemented in cars being used far beyond the capabilities the automakers foresaw. Question is: What will they think of next?

Editor’s Note: RealClearLife, a news and lifestyle publisher, is now a part of InsideHook. Together, we’ll be covering current events, pop culture, sports, travel, health and the world. Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.

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