Editor’s Note: Last week, Peter talked about the issue of Fundamental Affordability that’s overwhelming this business in “The Wrong Road.” This week, Peter addresses the precarious nature of the technological storm we find ourselves living in today, and how one car company in particular has been egregiously flouting the rules while invading our privacy. In On The Table, we have a brief look at the new Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid and a continued look at the all-new, all-electric 2025 Ram 1500 REV – a vehicle boasting promises that we doubt Stellantis can keep. We also remind our readers of the 75 years of Porsche celebration at the Petersen Automotive Museum. Our AE Song of the Week features a memorable song by Tears for Fears – “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.” In Fumes, Peter delivers Part XII of his popular series “The Great Races” – this week covering the entire 1970 Trans-Am Series, when the “Pony Car” wars were fought in the showrooms and on North America’s finest road racing tracks. And finally, we remember one of the OG’s of Speed, Craig Breedlove, plus results from the NASCAR dirt race at Bristol in The Line. Onward. -WG
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Welcome to your lifeThere’s no turning backEven while we sleepWe will find you
Those are the opening words from the song “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by the group Tears for Fears. It’s our AE Song of the Week featured in “On The Table” and it’s especially appropriate for what’s happening today. That there’s growing concern “out there” in the real world about where this hyper technology immersion we’ve been living with for more than a decade is taking us should be no surprise. 
It’s constant. It’s overwhelming. It’s invasive. And it’s debilitating. That we’ve all become addicted to it should be no surprise either. With each latest “breakthrough” in our ability to exploit our current communication platforms – or whatever the “next” platform is – we’re all being sucked further down the rabbit hole. And I’m quite sure with each so-called “improvement” we’re losing our grip on what’s real, what’s valuable and what, in fact, is actually worth it.
Yes, the benefits of this technology immersion have been notable too. To discount that is simply not being realistic. In many respects, our lives have been radically improved, but I believe we are reaching the limit of the efficacy of this technological explosion. 
I’m arriving at the subject of this column because of something that has emerged in the last week. As reported in The Guardian, it has been revealed that, according to ex-Tesla employees, denizens of that car company regularly shared ‘intimate’ car camera images gleaned from customers’ on-board cameras, in what is being called ‘a massive invasion of privacy.’
The Guardian continued:  
Tesla assures its millions of electric car owners that their privacy “is and will always be enormously important to us”. The cameras it builds into vehicles to assist driving, it notes on its website, are “designed from the ground up to protect your privacy.”
But between 2019 and 2022, groups of Tesla employees privately shared via an internal messaging system sometimes highly invasive videos and images recorded by customers’ car cameras, according to interviews by Reuters with nine former employees.
Some of the recordings caught Tesla customers in embarrassing situations. One ex-employee described a video of a man approaching a vehicle completely naked.
Also shared: crashes and road-rage incidents. One crash video in 2021 showed a Tesla driving at high speed in a residential area hitting a child riding a bike, according to another ex-employee. The child flew in one direction, the bike in another. The video spread around a Tesla office in San Mateo, California, via private one-on-one chats, “like wildfire”, the ex-employee said.
Other images were more mundane, such as pictures of dogs and funny road signs that employees made into memes by embellishing them with amusing captions or commentary, before posting them in private group chats. While some postings were only shared between two employees, others could be seen by scores of them, according to several ex-employees.
Tesla states in its online customer privacy notice that its “camera recordings remain anonymous and are not linked to you or your vehicle”. But seven former employees told Reuters the computer program they used at work could show the location of recordings, which potentially could reveal where a Tesla owner lived.
One ex-employee also said that some recordings appeared to have been made when cars were parked and turned off. Several years ago, Tesla would receive video recordings from its vehicles even when they were off, if owners gave consent. It has since stopped doing so.
“We could see inside people’s garages and their private properties,” said another former employee. “Let’s say that a Tesla customer had something in their garage that was distinctive, you know, people would post those kinds of things.”
Tesla didn’t respond to detailed questions sent to the company for this report.
Am I shocked that this was going on? No. When human beings are involved in the application or the digestion of technology, human nature and human failings always become a factor.
Am I shocked that this happened at Tesla? Not in the least. Fueled by the most unprincipled leader in all of American business, a person who has regularly thumbed his nose at laws, restrictions and safeguards designed to rein in technology and/or bad behavior, we’re talking about a company that has functioned as a corporate outlaw from the very beginning. 
The fact that this company has consistently promoted its “Full Self Driving” option when, in fact, it didn’t even approach the capabilities promised, is unacceptable. And the fact that they charged $10,000 for it is even worse. But the most egregious thing this company did was to enlist its owners – some of whom were unwitting participants – into doing so-called “beta” testing of the fundamentally unproven option out in the real world. And it is beyond unconscionable. This is no laughing matter, either. Because whether blind consumer belief in St. Elon’s Big Lie about “FSD” or out of sheer personal stupidity and/or irresponsibility, people actually died while engaging this technology. There’s a reason Tesla is now under the gun from NHTSA for this despicable behavior, and as I have stated before, I expect the company to pay a heavy price – running into the billions of dollars – for operating with the integrity of a scofflaw. 
So again, reading that some Tesla employees found amusement in eavesdropping on the personal lives of its customers through the onboard camera systems on Teslas is no surprise. But I would like to point out that if, let’s say, a domestic automaker did anything even approaching this behavior, you can be sure that company would be hauled before Congress for a public whipping, humiliation and “consequences.”
But there have never been any real consequences for Musk’s car company, and that’s the point here. The fact that Tesla has operated outside the bounds of respectability since Day One has been well-documented. It has accumulated a long list of incidents of corporate malfeasance, but it has managed to escape serious consequences because of a combination of Messianic fervor from Muskian devotees blind to the underlying bad behavior at work, to Wall Street-types who have consistently ignored the ugly realities being deployed by the company in order to hyper-inflate its stock price and capitalize on it.
This car company is made in the image of one of its co-founders – someone who is decidedly lacking in character, someone who believes he is smarter than everyone else and needn’t be bothered with conforming to the “mundane” laws that guide mere mortals. In other words, it is a full-blown Muskian Nightmare. And it’s a pathetic commentary about where we are today in terms of this technological imperative that is consuming us on a daily basis. That we’ve probably reached the point of no return with all of it shouldn’t surprise anyone.
But still, it’s not very good, is it?
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

Editor’s Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on “Next 1 Entries” below. – WG

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