Firmware update turns Tesla into online webcams

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The next software update for Tesla electric cars brought improvements to the sensational «guard mode». Now the smartphone not only receives warnings about the danger from artificial intelligence, but also has the opportunity to look around the car over the network.

The new functionality is available to users of the Premium Connectivity extended subscription, which costs ten dollars a month. As part of this service, Tesla provides customers with features that require broadband access to the network. For example, as an improved «guard mode» (Sentry mode) — the ability to remotely view video from cameras of an electric vehicle. In other words, Tesla cars now turn into smart webcams with a couple of clicks on the touchscreen of a smartphone, broadcasting any landscape to their owner.

The option can be useful to owners of electric cars who parked in a not very prosperous area. Or just worried about their safety. They can inspect the surroundings of the car before leaving the house and getting into it. Previously, Tesla cars in «guard» mode only sent a notification to a smartphone about alarming events in their immediate vicinity — someone touched the body, a loud sound was heard, or a supermarket trolley rolled through the parking lot and hit the car. The video of the incident itself could be watched or downloaded from the on-board computer later, already sitting in an electric car and connected to it via Wi-Fi.

According to the online publication Electrek, remote access to the cameras of an electric vehicle appeared in the firmware update 2021.36.8, which the company began to deploy to client machines in the middle of the week. So far, only those users who connect to their electric car through the latest version of the iPhone application can fully implement the function. When Tesla will expand support for Android smartphones, it is not specified.

The company claims it does not have access to these recordings from external and internal cameras of electric vehicles. They are transmitted between the car and the smartphone over a channel protected by end-to-end encryption, that is, they can only be viewed on the user’s on-board computer or phone. If desired, the functionality can be completely disabled through the vehicle security settings menu.

«Sentry Mode», or «Sentry Mode», appeared in Tesla cars in 2019. This feature uses radars and parking sensors to detect movement around the vehicle. If they are triggered, cameras, usually designed for machine vision of the autopilot, start recording video, and an alert is sent to the owner on the smartphone with the type of possible incident. This allows you to determine the culprit of minor or not very damages of the electric car in the parking lot — an opportunity for which many owners of other cars, who annually process at least a couple of scratches and scuffs on the paintwork, would give a lot.

Interestingly, Sentry mode was not only to the liking of ordinary Tesla customers. For police electric cars, the presence of this feature in the basic configuration has become a hefty savings on the mandatory circular DVRs. And if we talk about practical benefits, then for two years of mass operation, the «sentry mode» in Tesla cars managed to help in the investigation of several criminal offenses only in the United States. Recently, in Moscow, a vandal was caught scratching someone else’s car with a key and got into a Tesla review.