How Sentry Mode Will Guard Your Tesla From Attacks

from left: Tesla Model S, Tesla Model 3 and Tesla Model X


Once again, Tesla CEO Elon Musk improves his track record of delivering promises.

While Elon Musk has never really completely failed on delivering promises, he has admitted that he’s not always so punctual. This seems to be changing for the better as of late. As usual, Musk has made some recent promises via Twitter, and not long after, they’ve materialized. This is true about the automaker’s new Sentry Mode, which is now rolling out to Tesla vehicles.

Car theft is a major issue globally, and Tesla vehicles are especially popular. The automaker has already added features that make its cars less likely to be stolen, like the pin-to-drive technology. Not to mention the usual GPS tracking and other typical security measures. But now, Tesla is adding Sentry Mode.

Fortunately, due to all Tesla vehicles being manufactured with specific Autopilot hardware — regardless of whether or not a buyer chooses to pay for Autopilot — the array of cameras and radars are built in to all vehicles up front. This concept has proven helpful in other ways. For example, Tesla’s new standard dashcam “TeslaCam” feature is only possible due to Autopilot hardware.

At any rate, Sentry Mode is a welcome addition to Tesla’s fleet. We’ve included Tesla’s full press release below:

Sentry Mode: Guarding Your Tesla

The Tesla Team – February 13, 2019

According to federal statistics, there was an estimated one motor vehicle theft or attempted theft every 40.8 seconds in the United States in 2017— and that doesn’t even include the vast number of car break-ins that happen nationwide. To further enhance the security of our vehicles and give our customers additional peace of mind, today we’re starting to roll out a new safeguard – Sentry Mode – to protect against break-ins and theft.

Sentry Mode adds a unique layer of protection to Tesla vehicles by continuously monitoring the environment around a car when it’s left unattended. When enabled, Sentry Mode enters a “Standby” state, like many home alarm systems, which uses the car’s external cameras to detect potential threats. If a minimal threat is detected, such as someone leaning on a car, Sentry Mode switches to an “Alert” state and displays a message on the touchscreen warning that its cameras are recording. If a more severe threat is detected, such as someone breaking a window, Sentry Mode switches to an “Alarm” state, which activates the car alarm, increases the brightness of the center display, and plays music at maximum volume from the car’s audio system.

If a car switches to “Alarm” state, owners will also receive an alert from their Tesla mobile app notifying them that an incident has occurred. They’ll be able to download a video recording of an incident (which begins 10 minutes prior to the time a threat was detected) by inserting a formatted USB drive into their car before they enable Sentry Mode.

Sentry Mode must be enabled each time a driver wants to use the feature by going to Controls > Safety & Security > Sentry Mode. The feature will begin rolling out today to U.S. Model 3 vehicles, followed by Model S and Model X vehicles that were built after August 2017.

While no alarm system can prevent against all vehicle thefts, break-ins and threats, we hope that with Sentry Mode and our other security features, your Tesla will be even more secure.

Source: Tesla

Categories: Tesla

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25 Comments on "How Sentry Mode Will Guard Your Tesla From Attacks"

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A nice feature which should deter many thieves. My only issue is that if the video is downloaded a USB drive in the front console which is visible, why wouldn’t the thief just take the USB drive which contains the surveillance footage? Am I missing something here?

There needs to be an option to have the car upload the footage to the cloud if the owner had a cellular wifi USB installed.

But either way, this should be a good deterrent for the bulk of the opportunistic thieves.

USB theft is an issue, if the culprit is smart ad knows the USB ports are.

The other issue is that car can’t sleep while sentry mode is active, so vampire drain will be through the roof. That’s why sentry mode requires manual activation each time and doesn’t function if the battery is below 20%.

If you are smashing to grab, I would think that climbing inside the car to get to the port takes several times the amount of time you are spending grabbing.

Not only are very small (less than 5mm) flash drives available, but my idea is to create a small bracket that goes around the little drive held in place by two tiny screws (or even better torx screws) into the plastic center console. The poor thief would have to unscrew the tiny brackets to get the flash drive out.

3D printed USB locks are being designed as we speak by entrepreneurs!

Seriously, some of the tiny flashdrives are hard to see in the center console cubby area.

On my Model 3, I use two tiny flash drives in the USB ports. (For those who don’t know about the USB port locations, they are buried beneath the charging deck in the console. It is dark and covered in a felt-like coating.) I use one USB flash drive for the Tesla cam and one for music. They are black and can’t be seen without a flashlight/camera light. My Nomad wireless charging pad and front/rear dashcams are powered by a USB hub that runs from the front cigarette lighter.

Unless the thief is intimately familiar with the Model 3 USB ports, he/she is going to spend a great deal of time trying figure out where the heck those tiny flash drives reside. Even I have to use a flashlight to remove these small USB drives. (Literally, less than 5mm sticks out from the USB port.)

I would like to see it enter a mode of recording motion after contact has been made with the vehicle like when people bang your car with their door and walk away.

One issue I have with this is that the first alarm goes off, only (?) if sentry mode is activated. A thief could easily check if a car has activated the mode by bumping into it. If the car alerts the thief, he can just walk away, since the car only saves the images when the “alarm” mode kicks in. If the car does not respond to his or her bumping, it can be safely assumed that sentry mode is off, making it easier to break in.
I think this can be adressed by altering the alert policy of the system, though. For example if the car already saves when in bumping mode, just maybe not the previous 10 minutes, only one. This would discourage thieves to try to bump into Teslas.

No security system is foolproof. You just want to make yourself a less likely target than the next person… which it sounds like is exactly how it’s working based on your post.

The problem is that saving the last 1 minute requires the same power drain on the car (full-time recording) as saving the last 10.

I think the minimal threat should trigger a very short alarm chirp. Someone who leans up against the car (not maliciously) may not even notice the message on the screen. Also, playing music on the full alert doesn’t seem that affective. Maybe it should play a baby crying sound or a woman screaming (both of which would get a hell of a lot of attention than classic car alarm). Or maybe it should play a voice saying “I’m being stolen…someone please call the police…” etc. Or the other option is an extremely cringeworthy sound like the sound of finger nails on blackboard.

I suspect it’s more effective than screaming. When someone screams, people just assume they are clowning around (which is almost always the case), so people generally just ignore it. When someone blares very loud music on the other hand, people will think they are being assholes, and more likely to get out just to complain…

Either way, anything that might get people looking is likely to scare off most thieves.

Cringe-worthy sound is an interesting suggestion, though 😉

The car alarm ALWAYS sounds when the door is opened without unlocking. The additional Sentry Mode just adds full volume music to the interior.

At least you will have a video of your car getting broken into. Great for watching while you are crying in your beer. Like home video cameras, great for watching but only useful for recovery or prosecution in 1 out of a thousand events.

Yeah, but good enough to make most thieves look elsewhere in the first place…

The Tesla owner will also get a notification of the alarm on their phone app. What do you want it to do? Shoot the thief or fill the car up with poisonous gas?

Sounds cool but draining on the 12v battery. Maybe only use it while at the movies?

I would rather assume that this actually keeps the main battery engaged?…

No word on how many cameras will be used in recording these incidents. I’ll be interested in seeing this in this when it comes out. Not crazy about get the speakers blown-out by false alarms though.

Now, assume cops will do anything with the video evidence…

In our city the cops will use the video. #safestcityinamerica YMMV

More useful things to do with all those cameras…. cool!

One of the advantages of central SW on cars — which carmakers os far haven’t made use of…
I do hope Tesla realizes that some jurisdictions prohibit audible car alarms completely, and allow turning off just the audible part — over here, it’s actually a criminal offense to have an audible alarm, with up 6 months of jail time (passingthis law was an overreaction, for sure, but it was preceded by decades of completely ineffective and very noisy alarms).

You do realize that every premium car has a built in alarm? In fact, insurance companies offer discounts for such alarms. Perhaps you are confused about alarm laws as related to OEM products? I don’t know of any automaker willing to disarm their premium models for some “jurisdiction” that has outlawed car alarms. You should check your local laws. Some little town in the boonies can’t start making local laws that effect every automaker on Earth.

I mean think about it: What if Tinytown decided that cars with horns were annoying, so they outlawed car horns. Are you suggesting that every other town could make up their own laws and determine that cars need to disconnect their horns or the owner gets 6 months in jail? What if a New York hotel baron came to town and honked his horn? Would he get 6 months in jail? Come on, even small towns can’t go around and start legislating for the rest of the world.

I didn’t say anything about US small towns. What I wrote holds for the entire country of Israel. And yes, it affects every carmaker that sells car here. It’s even more radical than I wrote, since up to 1.5 years ago, while installing a security system with audible alarm (or selling a car with a built-in one) was illegal, existing systems were grandfathered; as of July 2017, the grandfathering was eliminated, and any existing system must have the audible component removed. Granted, I haven’t heard that anyone was actually jailed for this. I don’t think any premium cars here have had audible alarms for decades… Are you sure _you_ aren’t confused? There’s lots of research showing audible alarms are completely ineffective in themselves. What most mid-priced and above cars have is immobilizer systems tied to the ignition key / keyless card, and many have GPS-based location monitoring tied to cellular reporting (which also provides the carmaker and/or location security provider with ongoing income). While I thought I’d read that there were, in addition, a couple of large cities that banned audible alarms, I can’t find the citation so may have been wrong on that (there was an unsuccessful attempt in… Read more »