On Thursday, the Dutch government's forensic lab announced that it had encrypted Tesla's carefully guarded driving data storage system, revealing a plethora of information that may be used to probe major accidents.
Although it was previously known that Tesla cars keep accident data, the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) announced that it had discovered significantly more data than investigators were aware of.
Tesla automobiles, according to the decrypted data, keep information regarding the operation of its driver assistance technology, known as Autopilot, according to the NFI. The vehicles also record speed, accelerator pedal position, steering wheel angle, and brake usage, which can be stored for up to a year depending on how the vehicle is utilized.
In a statement, Francis Hoogendijk, a digital investigator at the NFI, said, "These data contain a wealth of information for forensic investigators and traffic accident analysts and can help with a criminal investigation after a fatal traffic accident or an accident with injury,"
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment right away.
Rather than requesting information from Tesla, the Dutch lab said it "reverse engineered" data logs found in Tesla vehicles "in order to objectively investigate them."
Tesla encrypts its coded driving data, according to the NFI, to preserve driver privacy and keep its technology secure from other manufacturers. In the event of an accident, car owners can request their data, including camera footage.
Tesla Inc announced earlier this year that it has set up a location in China to store car data locally, as automakers faced increased scrutiny over how they handle data collected by vehicle cameras and sensors.
The NFI now knows more about what kind of data Tesla is storing and for how long, allowing for more detailed data requests, according to Hoogendijk. Tesla provides data when asked by a court in the Netherlands, but by decrypting the code, the NFI now knows more about what kind of data the carmaker is storing and for how long.
"You cannot claim what you do not know, so it's helpful that we now know what else is being stored," he said.
Investigators simply do not know how much and what kind of data manufacturers save, or for how long, according to Hoogendijk, and this also applies to other carmakers.
The data, which is periodically transferred from automobiles and used by Tesla for product upgrades or to rectify issues, is accessible remotely, according to the lab.
The NFI said it obtained data from Tesla models S, Y, X, and the mass-market Model 3 and shared the findings at a European Association for Accident Research conference so that other accident analysts might benefit from it.
In August, After a series of crashes involving Tesla models and emergency vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (US) began a formal safety investigation of Tesla's Autopilot technology in 765,000 U.S. vehicles.
To date, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has identified 12 crashes between Tesla vehicles with sophisticated driver-assistance systems and emergency vehicles. The majority of the collisions, according to the NHTSA, occurred after dark.