A hacker known as @greentheonly has discovered a hidden feature in Tesla vehicles that enables hands-free driving, which he has dubbed “Elon Mode”. The hacker has been delving into the vehicle code for several years, and has previously uncovered information such as how Tesla can lock users out of using their power seats or center camera in the Model 3 before it was officially activated.
Details of “Elon Mode”
The hacker found that after enabling Elon Mode, the car did not require any attention from the driver while using Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) software. FSD is Tesla’s advanced driver-assist system that is currently in beta testing. The software has had thousands of customer complaints of sudden braking and abrupt acceleration, as revealed in an internally leaked report last month.
Tesla’s Autopilot system, the automaker’s first-generation driver-assist system for highways, requires the driver to nudge the steering wheel to confirm they are being attentive during use. However, FSD users are also subject to frequent nudging, at times requiring enough force that could inadvertently shut off the system.
In addition to the hands-on-steering confirmation, vehicles with a center interior camera (above the rearview mirror) observe drivers to ensure they are looking forward. However, this system can be finicky, and drivers have reported that wearing a baseball cap can cause the system to constantly nag them to “please pay attention to the road”.
During the nearly 600-mile test conducted by the hacker in Elon Mode, there was no such nagging. The test was performed in a company-owned vehicle, which may not have had an interior camera at all. It is unclear how the hacker obtained access to the car.
Implications of “Elon Mode”
It is currently unknown whether this version of FSD will be available to regular owners. In December, Elon Musk hinted that nag-free driving is coming. The hacker notes that Tesla’s software is more secure than ever, compared to 2017 when the hacker first started inspecting it. Despite being able to consistently get around Tesla’s security, the hacker tweets that the level of care Tesla puts into its software is rare to see compared to other cars they have examined, and it is “a nice puzzle that keeps getting better”.
The discovery of “Elon Mode” by a Tesla software hacker has revealed a hidden feature in Tesla vehicles that enables hands-free driving while using the company’s advanced driver-assist system. While it is unclear whether this version of FSD will become available to regular owners, the hacker notes that Tesla’s software is more secure than ever and that the puzzle of its intricacies continues to improve.