Since it’s founding in 2003, Tesla has become the front runner of technological advancements in the automotive industry competing with other luxury brands such as Mercedes, BMW, and Jaguar. These Innovations are how Tesla sets itself apart from the competition by continually offering periodic updates giving fresh-breath of life to their vehicles in an increasingly competitive market.
In attempts to stay at the top of the market, recent updates pushed out by Tesla have included features such as Smart Phone integration, Advanced Summon, and Advanced Autopilot, features that Tesla owners and enthusiasts have been requesting since the vehicle’s creation. Following in the same fashion, Tesla has released a new firmware update available for download which caters to customer requests and provides top of the line security that’s hard to compete with.
What’s in the New Tesla Software Update?
Sentry Mode and Dog Mode are among the latest features being rolled out for Tesla owners, providing a massive security update for both unattended vehicles and for the animals inside of these unattended vehicles. These features were recently announced as little as a month ago via Elon Musk’s personal Twitter account and subsequently released for existing Tesla vehicles through an over the air firmware update. These features will be provided to Tesla Model 3 owners first with Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X owners receiving their update in the near future.
Sentry Mode is Tesla Motors latest security update that overhauls the entirety of the existing onboard security software and features already pre-installed in every unit. Due to the number of complaints surrounding the quality of the alarm system provided on this luxury unit, Tesla has created new software that will allow the vehicle to take full advantage of every sensory device present on Tesla vehicles (provided the vehicle has the autopilot features installed and enabled).
This new software will take full advantage of the eight onboard cameras to provide the software with a full 360° view of the vehicle’s surroundings. While video monitoring became available in a previous version of Tesla’s software, this is the first time the vehicle has full access to external cameras when the vehicle is inactive.
How Does Sentry Mode Work?
Once the provided firmware is installed to the vehicle, users are required to navigate to the settings menu to enable Sentry Mode. This extra step is integral to the activation of the new feature, as it’s not automatically enabled after the update is installed. Activation requires a FAT-32 (MS-DOS) formatted USB drive to be inserted into the vehicle’s console. This will allow the recorded video to be saved locally as the software does not currently support video to be live streamed to the user’s phone. Without the inclusion of a USB drive, Tesla’s onboard software will not allow Sentry Mode to be enabled.
Once activation is complete, the user will be required to activate Sentry Mode every time the vehicle is parked. Once unattended, the software will assess the surroundings of your vehicle and determine if the vehicle is required to enter into “Standby State”, “Alert State” or “Alarm State”.
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Standby State is the default mode the vehicle will enter once the onboard cameras detect movement in the surrounding area of the vehicle. While in Standby State, the vehicle may enter into an awakened state that will actively be prepared to change to “Alert State” or “Alarm State” depending on the surroundings scanned and assessed by the vehicle’s external cameras. In the Standby State, video is not recorded by the cameras, allowing for less battery consumption as opposed to the other states where the cameras are fully active and recording. In the event the cameras detect a potential threat to the unattended vehicle, Standby State will be switched to Alert State.
Alert State is enabled when the vehicle’s onboard security software deems the surrounding activity gathered in the standby state a minimal threat to the vehicle. The system classifies a minimal threat as someone leaning on the vehicle, a group of individuals standing around the vehicle, or anything entering into the proximity of the vehicles sensors. (The exact sensor proximity has yet to be released from Tesla most likely due to security purposes in order to negate people circumventing the system)
When the Alert State has been activated, the vehicles onboard center console becomes active, displaying an indistinguishable warning on the Tesla’s center console. The warning states the activation of the vehicle’s cameras and notifies onlookers that the vehicle is recording its surroundings. This warning is presented by an illuminated visualization reminiscent of a Space Oddessy’s HAL-9000 to provide a sharp and powerful red warning indistinguishable to onlookers, notifying those passing by of the vehicles state. If there is still a constant threat determined by the software, the vehicle will enter into its next state: Alarm State.
Alarm State is enabled when the vehicle’s onboard security software deems the surrounding activity gathered in either Standby State and Alert State is considered a severe threat to the vehicle. A Severe threat can be classified as a more aggressive force interacting with the vehicle such as a broken window, a large impact with the car or attempted force to enter the car.
When the vehicle enters Alert State, the vehicle’s car alarm begins emitting a defining tone, the center console’s brightness increase, and the audio levels are set to max volume as music begins playing through the interior speakers. With everything combined, there is no confusion as to what is occurring. It is clear the vehicle is attempting to deter a threat.
Once the Alert State has become fully active, the owner of the impacted Tesla will receive a push notification to their phone from the Tesla app. This notification will inform the owner that an incident has occurred with their vehicle and that the alarm is currently going off. Unfortunately, as of the current software update, users will not be able to stream their vehicles cameras directly to their phone as all footage is stored to the inserted USB flash drive.
With the firmware update recently going live, there has been a few valid complaints and issues provided by Tesla owners online. The most notable of these are the concerns surrounding the incorporation of the internal audio being set to max volume when the vehicle enters into Alert State. The worry is that loud volume could possibly damage the speakers, as max volume causes audio to peak on any speaker system.
This could cause slight rips to the speakers, or blow out internal components causing the speakers to require replacement in order for full functionality. One of Tesla’s engineers has since commented on Tesla Motor’s subreddit, r/TeslaMotors, stating that the invasive noise levels would not damage the speakers:
“Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is a fitting ‘Sentry Tone.’
I would not worry about damage to the speakers. Even the subwoofer employs a high-pass filter to protect from the insanely low frequencies that Toccata and Fugue employ.
The systems group in Tesla have verified safe, distortion-free excursion in Sentry Mode. All of the speakers we provide undergo extended pink-noise power-testing that far exceeds’ music content.
In short, Sentry Mode is awesome and will not damage your stereo system.”
Other concerns have arisen regarding the lack of internal monitoring by the security system. More specifically, when a hand is reached inside of the vehicle while the Alert State is active it is unclear how the system will react. In addition, many are also concerned with the ability to cover the cameras to negate the alarms from activation. Tesla has yet to comment regarding these issues.
The second feature provided in the most recent update is the incorporation of a security mode that would cater to the dog owners of the Tesla family. Simply dubbed “Dog Mode”, the Twitter-inspired addition to the vehicle would provide a safe environment for dogs left inside of the vehicle unattended. This is in efforts to combat the overwhelming number or Dog deaths that occur each summer from overheating inside of unattended vehicles.
How Does Dog Mode Work?
When Dog Mode is enabled, the vehicle will remain active while idling. This allows the owner to set the vehicle to a comfortable temperature before leaving the car. The center console will then display the text “Don’t Worry! My owner will be back soon”, in prominent letters, as well as a large indicator of the internal temperature visible from the outside of the car. In the event the battery drops below 20%, the car will remain active and a push notification will be provided to the owner’s phone.
While overall issues with the system’s operation have not raised concern itself, concerns stem from the environment surrounding the vehicle. The biggest of these concerns is the potential interaction from those passing-by the vehicle who notice the dog inside and fail to notice the indicator on the screen. This could result in a large number of broken windows in efforts to rescue a dog that is in no need of saving. Adversely, as the update has yet to run its first course through a summer season, we have no indication of the reality of these speculations.
A Step in the Right Direction
Since this update has been rolled out only recently, it is still too early to determine the effectiveness if Sentry Mode or the potential issues that may arise with Dog Mode. But, There’s no denying Tesla is taking a step in the right direction by showing care for their customer’s insights and opinions. We are looking forwards to seeing what new advances are in store for Tesla owners in the future!