If a Tesla Rental is Wrecked, What Happens to the Data?


Onus on drivers and renters of vehicles to wipe information

Aside from being the most popular electric car on the market, Tesla is also notorious for providing a great deal of information on not only its performance, but its drivers as well. And while the collection and use of personal data has been an issue associated more with players in the car rental agency, a recent study by Privacy International indicated the firms in the automobile industry don’t find that type of information particularly useful to their operations.

However, when it comes to people who own vehicles like the Tesla Model S, the information is not only extensive, but also hard to pry from the company’s hands. According to Consumer Affairs, drivers involved in Tesla vehicle accidents have reported great difficulty in getting access to such data. The tug-of-war is especially evident in situations where there’s a debate over the crash occurring due to driver error or vehicular defect.

One case included a Miami family asking the company for data when the Tesla they owned inexplicably suffered a series of surges in the throttle while being parked, and were told to get a subpoena instead. And in one case of an actual wreck, two researchers hacked the vehicle to find that the data was not only still available, but unencrypted as well.

What’s confusing is that issues surrounding data retention, including those of the driver, are muddled in grey, given that it’s unclear about the levels of responsibility involved in ensuring such information is secure. While Tesla has prided itself in providing green-energy cars with a load of safety features in them, it appears that the onus on the safety of the information being collected is up to the owner.

It’s not likely that the personal data gleaned from users of rented cars would be anywhere near as extensive as the information from owner of cars like Tesla, simply because of the short time span a car is being rented. That said, the Federal Transport Commission is encouraging privacy and security-conscious drivers who rent vehicles to take a few measures to ensure their personal information is protected. They advise users to abstain from connecting mobile phones to the on-board infotainment system as the USB connection is still capable of automatically transferring data.

If users still want to connect to the car system, even just for recharging, they should be wary about granting access to information that they only need to avoid other access to your contacts. Finally, before returning the vehicle, delete all your personal data from the infotainment system by accessing the settings menu and following the prompts from that point.

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