Tesla Sentry Mode: What It Is, How to Use It and Battery Drain

By Kevin Armstrong
Tesla's Sentry Mode captures videos from up to four cameras at once
Tesla's Sentry Mode captures videos from up to four cameras at once
Not a Tesla App

Tesla Sentry Mode is an intelligent vehicle security system designed to monitor and record potential threats around your parked Tesla. This feature utilizes the vehicle's cameras and sensors to detect suspicious activity, notify the owner through the Tesla mobile app, and save footage to a USB drive.

What is Sentry Mode

When enabled, Tesla Sentry Mode keeps the vehicle's cameras and computer powered on and ready to record potential threats while the car is locked and in Park. If a threat is detected, the system pulses the headlights, displays a message on the touchscreen, and may sound the alarm, depending on the situation. In addition, footage of the event is saved to a USB drive, and the owner will be notified via the app if the alarm goes off. Sentry Mode offers an extra layer of security for Tesla owners, helping to deter would-be thieves or vandals.

Cameras and Sound

While Sentry Mode is enabled, it will record from four of the vehicle's nine available cameras. The video recorded comes from one of the front-facing cameras, the fender camera on either side of the vehicle, and the rear camera. The other remaining front-facing cameras, B-pillar cameras, and the cabin camera do not record at this time.

Teslas do not contain any external microphones, so all Sentry Mode videos are silent. Although Teslas do contain internal microphones, Tesla does not capture audio from these microphones. In fact, even if you're viewing the interior camera in the Tesla app, you can not hear any audio from inside of the vehicle.

How to Turn On Sentry Mode

You can enable Sentry Mode by tapping Controls then tapping 'Sentry.' The Sentry Mode icon will turn red when Sentry Mode is enabled. You can also choose to turn on Sentry Mode automatically when the vehicle is parked or activate it using the Tesla mobile app. Voice commands like "Keep Tesla safe," "Keep my car safe," "Sentry on," or "Enable Sentry" can also be used to enable the feature.

Enable Sentry Mode from the Controls menu
Enable Sentry Mode from the Controls menu
Not a Tesla App

How Long Does Sentry Mode Stay On

Once Sentry Mode is enabled, it will remain on until you turn it off, or when your battery reaches 20%. If the battery falls below this level, Sentry Mode will turn off, and you will receive a notification via the Tesla app. Since Sentry Mode increases power consumption, Tesla turns it off automatically to leave you with enough energy to reach your destination.

Sentry Mode Battery Drain

Since your vehicle's computer needs to remain on to process video from its various cameras, there is additional power usage while Sentry Mode is enabled.

The actual amount of power consumed varies based on your vehicle's specific hardware, but tests have shown that the vehicle will consume about 250 to 300 watts while Sentry Mode is on. This is equivalent to losing about 1 mile of range for every hour Sentry Mode is enabled.

In a day, Sentry Mode may consume as much as 7.2 kWh, about 24 miles of range, or roughly equivalent to 7% to 14% of your battery, depending on your model and battery size.

Since Sentry Mode consumes so much energy, it's best to use it only when needed. Sentry Mode is not meant for when your vehicle will be parked long term, as it'll quickly drain your battery. Luckily, Tesla offers options to automatically enable Sentry Mode at specific locations and Sentry Mode is automatically disabled when the vehicle's battery falls to 20%.

Sentry Mode Options

You can customize Sentry Mode settings to fit your preferences and requirements. Some options available include:

Disabling sounds: If you want to silence the security alarm and audio system when the alarm is triggered, navigate to Controls > Safety > Disable Sentry Sounds. Sentry Mode will still send a notification through the mobile app and save the last 10 minutes of footage of any events that occurred.

Excluding specific locations: In Controls > Safety > Sentry Mode, you can choose not to enable Sentry Mode in particular areas, such as your home, work, or favorite destinations. This can be helpful if you want to conserve battery power or avoid unnecessary recordings in familiar areas.

Choosing the clip length: In some markets (Not available in the U.S. and Canada), you can select the length of Sentry Mode video clips, allowing you to customize how much footage is saved during an event. 

Disabling camera detection: If you prefer, you can disable camera detection so that Sentry Mode only activates when the car senses a physical intrusion. This can be helpful in situations where you want to minimize the number of false alarms or unnecessary recordings.

How to Set Up Sentry Mode

First, insert a compatible USB drive into the glove box USB port. If your car doesn't have a USB port in the glove box, you can use one in the center console. Note that not all Teslas have data-capable USB ports in the center console, so the glove box should be your first choice. Chances are that Tesla already included a compatible USB drive in the car for you. Tesla defines a compatible USB drive as one that is USB 2.0 compatible and holds at least 64 GB. This Samsung USB drive is a good choice for Sentry Mode because of its durability and size. It offers fast write speeds and 256GB of storage, 4x Tesla's recommendation.

Next, you can format the USB drive by going to Controls > Safety and tap on "Format USB Drive." Tesla recommends using a high-quality USB drive to ensure smooth recording and playback of Sentry Mode videos. You can also enable Dashcam recording. Navigate to Controls > Safety > Dashcam in your vehicle's menu and set it to Auto. This will allow your vehicle to automatically record footage while driving. Footage will automatically be recorded when an event is detected or when you tap the Dashcam icon under Controls > Dashcam.

How to View Sentry Mode Recordings

You can review your Sentry Mode video with the Dashcam Viewer app in the car
You can review your Sentry Mode video with the Dashcam Viewer app in the car
Not a Tesla App

To view Sentry Mode or Dashcam videos, use the Dashcam app in your vehicle. The Tesla system tags events with a red dot, making locating and reviewing footage easier. This feature allows you to quickly identify any incidents around your vehicle and gather evidence if necessary. Remember to regularly check your USB drive's storage capacity, as new recordings will overwrite the oldest ones when the drive is full. It's a good idea to back up important footage to a separate storage device for safekeeping.

Sentry Mode Live Access

You can view live footage from your vehicle in the Tesla app
You can view live footage from your vehicle in the Tesla app
Not a Tesla App

Sentry Mode Live Access lets you view your vehicle's cameras in real-time using the Tesla mobile app. This feature requires Tesla's Premium Connectivity. When using View Live Camera, your vehicle will periodically flash its exterior lights and displays a message on the touchscreen, notifying others that the area surrounding the vehicle is being viewed through the cameras.

To enable the View Live Camera feature, touch Controls > Safety > Sentry Mode > View Live Camera via Mobile App on the car's touchscreen. First, ensure no occupants are in the vehicle, and all doors are locked. Then, navigate to Safety > Sentry Mode > View Live Camera in the Tesla app. The live camera feed is fully encrypted and cannot be accessed by Tesla, ensuring your privacy. View Live Camera is limited to approximately one hour (or 15 minutes for some regions) of cumulative usage per day. Although Sentry Mode Live Access is widely available, it is not currently available in all markets.

If your vehicle is equipped with a pedestrian warning speaker you can press and hold the microphone button in the app to transmit your voice through the speaker, potentially deterring would-be intruders or vandals.

When Dog Mode or Sentry Mode are enabled, you can also switch the live camera view to see through the vehicle's interior camera. This can be useful if you want to check on your pet while away from the vehicle. Note that this feature is not supported in vehicles with Autopilot computer 2.0 or 2.5.

Tesla Sentry Mode is a valuable security feature that can help protect your vehicle from potential threats. By following the steps provided, you can set up, enable, and customize this feature to fit your needs. As a Tesla owner, using Sentry Mode can give you peace of mind, knowing that your car is actively monitoring its surroundings for potential threats. While no security system can prevent all attacks, Sentry Mode offers an added layer of protection that can help deter criminals and keep your vehicle safe.

Tesla's Dojo Project Faces Leadership Shakeup

By Kevin Armstrong
Dojo Leadership Shake up
Dojo Leadership Shake up

Ganesh Venkataramanan, Tesla’s project lead for its ambitious Dojo supercomputer project for the past five years, has left the company. Bloomberg reported this development, stating that the news was confirmed by sources familiar with the matter. Peter Bannon, a former executive at Apple Inc. and a director at Tesla for the last seven years, has now taken the helm of the project.

Venkataramanan's departure from Tesla last month is now stirring conversations about the potential impacts on Tesla's future initiatives. His contributions to the Dojo project have been pivotal, especially in designing the custom D1 chip that powers the supercomputer. Venkataramanan, with his extensive experience, including a significant tenure at Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), was a crucial asset in setting up Tesla’s AI hardware and silicon teams in 2016.

Dojo: A Cornerstone for Tesla’s Self-Driving Aspirations

The Dojo supercomputer is a critical element of Tesla's strategy to enhance its self-driving capabilities. Designed to train machine learning models integral to Tesla's autonomous systems, Dojo processes vast amounts of data captured by Tesla vehicles. This rapid data processing is essential for improving the company’s algorithms, with analysts suggesting that Dojo could be a significant competitive advantage for Tesla. In a recent estimation by Morgan Stanley, the project could potentially add $500 billion to Tesla’s value.

Elon Musk has been vocal about the company's commitment to the Dojo project, planning an investment exceeding $1 billion by the end of 2024. The project's importance was underscored in Tesla's decision to shift from relying on Nvidia Corp.’s supercomputers to developing Dojo, poised to rival systems from Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. and IBM.

Looking Ahead: Impact and Future Prospects

The recent leadership changes raise questions about the future direction of the Dojo project. Venkataramanan's exit, coupled with the departure of another critical artificial intelligence player from Tesla last year, Andrej Karpathy, signals a transition period for the company’s AI and self-driving teams.

However, Tesla's robust talent pool, blending experienced and emerging professionals, offers a silver lining. Bannon's promotion to lead the Dojo project is seen as a strategic move, leveraging his experience and insights gained from his tenure at Apple. Moreover, the recent installation of Dojo hardware in Palo Alto, California, marks a step forward in centralizing and enhancing the project’s capabilities.

Tesla’s ambitions for Dojo extend to making it one of the world’s top supercomputers. The company envisions reaching a computational capability of 100 exaflops* by October 2024, a testament to its commitment to advancing artificial intelligence and self-driving technology.

* Confused about "exaflops?" "Flops" stands for Floating Point Operations Per Second. It's a way to measure how fast a computer can process data. "Exa" means a billion billion, or 1, followed by 18 zeros (1,000,000,000,000,000,000). So, when we say a computer can perform 100 exaflops, it can do 100 billion billion calculations per second. That's incredibly fast!

New Parking Visualizations and Custom Locking Sounds Also Coming in Tesla's Holiday Update

By Kevin Armstrong
Tesla is adding a new 'High Fidelity Park Assist' feature in this year's Holiday Update
Tesla is adding a new 'High Fidelity Park Assist' feature in this year's Holiday Update

Following initial reactions to Tesla's 2023 Holiday Update, Elon Musk acknowledged the need for improvement, stating, "We need to step up our game." His post on X was followed by Tesla shedding more light on the Holiday Update than what was in the initial leak.

Call me old, but I remember a time when you bought a car, and that was it; the dealer and manufacturer didn’t give you anything else. So is the Tesla community acting a little bit spoiled here? Absolutely. But it also shows how high Tesla has set the bar with its previous Holiday Updates.

Initial Release and Feedback

The initial release of the 2023 Holiday Update, version 2023.44.25, received mixed reactions from the Tesla community, with some owners expressing disappointment over the lack of groundbreaking new features. But the newly announced features may serve as better stocking stuffers.

The initial rollout included something owners have been asking for, the blind spot monitor. The camera that turns on when you change lanes will now have a red color added if there is something in your blind spot. It’s not clear whether it will be accompanied by a tone.

Here are other features in the leaked update that are being tested by employees:

Navigation and Safety Features: Including symbols for speed cameras, stop signs, and traffic lights in navigation, and the automatic 911 call feature in case of an accident.

Trip Planning via Tesla Mobile App: Allowing for more detailed trip planning, including multiple stops and charging points.

Apple Podcasts Integration: Allowing users to sync with Apple devices for a seamless podcast experience, directly addressing the demand for a richer in-car entertainment system.

New Games and Enhancements: The update brought updates to Tesla Arcade, with Beach Buggy Racing and Polytopia Diplomacy updates, as well as the Vampire Survivors Chilling update.

Light Show Improvements: There’s a new light show that’s included with your vehicle. You’ll also be able to upload several light shows on a single USB drive and pick one from the vehicle, instead of having to use multiple USB drives, one for each light show.

More Live Sentry Mode Cameras: You will now be able to view the B-pillar cameras directly from the Tesla app. This brings the number of viewable cameras in the app up to seven. The only ones still missing are the alternative front-facing cameras that are telephoto and wide-angle, which wouldn’t bring much additional value. Although the B-pillars are viewable in the app with this update, they will still not be used to record during Dashcam or Sentry Mode events.

High-Fidelity Park Assist

Tesla's High Fidelity Park Assist
Tesla's new parking assist feature will dynamically recreate scenes in real-time

In response to the feedback and Musk's statement, Tesla unveiled additional features in its updated holiday update, including an improved park assist with enhanced visualizations.

This feature provides a 3D reconstruction of the vehicle's surroundings while parking, akin to a 360-degree camera system found in other high-end vehicles. The system is clearly leveraging improvements to Tesla Vision to create the surrounding environment, such as cars, pillars and walls.

This feature also appears to change the color of objects depending on how close they are to your vehicle. In the image we can see the pillars are orange, but if we look closer, the object behind the vehicle is also orange near the bottom. The sides of the vehicles next to the Tesla also have a slight hint of orange, indicating their proximity.

However, it looks like this feature may be even better than it initially looks. The vehicles in the image aren’t just predefined 3D models that Tesla created, like the ones used in Autopilot visualizations. These models appear to be dynamically created using vision, so that no two cars would look alike, much more similar to what LiDar is able to achieve. The visualization provides a true representation of the environment around the vehicle. You can see that each vehicle is made up from layers and have blurred edges toward the rear, where the camera would have a hard time seeing.

These 3D models could be a sneak peek at the future of FSD visualizations.

High-Fidelity Park Assist Requirements

A big question on everyone’s mind is who will receive this new park assist feature. Tesla didn’t address this in their post on X besides providing a disclaimer that the features in the holiday release are subject to model and region availability. Tesla often likes to test features in select markets before making them available everywhere. It’s hard to say whether that will be the case here. There likely aren’t any legal ramifications around providing visualizations, so that’s a good sign that this feature will be available in most regions, either in the holiday update, or soon afterward.

However, there are still questions around which models or hardware will be required. From the image shared, we can see it’s offered on a Model Y, removing any speculation of it possibly requiring the HD radar in the new Model S/X. We also don’t think it will require FSD hardware 4.0, so the remaining questions are whether it requires MCU 3, or the FSD package.

Given that Tesla is calling this Park Assist, it doesn’t appear to be linked to Auto Park, which is a FSD package feature. When Tesla rolled out visual and audio alerts for vehicles without ultrasonic sensors, it called the feature Park Assist, and that was available to all owners.

Whether this improved Park Assist feature requires a vehicle with MCU 3 will depend on the level of processing power required. It’ll certainly require more than the current visualizations given that its building the scene in real-time, so we’re hopeful that it’ll work on MCU 2 vehicles too, but we just don’t have enough information right now to make the call.

Custom Lock Sounds

Soon you'll be able to choose a custom locking sound for your car
Soon you'll be able to choose a custom locking sound for your car
Not a Tesla App

Tesla also announced a fun and whimsical feature that allows owners to customize the lock sound of their Tesla. No longer will you need to listen to the car’s horn when it locks as you walk away. Now you’ll be able to customize the lock sound of the vehicle. Tesla is including several options, including sounds like a screaming goat, a jingle, a rubber ducky, a quack sound, an old school horn and applause. However, you’ll also be able to upload your own file to create a truly unique experience.

You can pick anything, from a bird’s tweet to a favorite video game sound. You’ll only be limited by the maximum upload file size, which according to a Tesla engineer, is a 1MB file in WAV format, which is roughly about 40 seconds at good quality.

This feature is possible due to the vehicle’s external pedestrian warning speaker. So if you have Tesla’s Boombox feature or your vehicle makes a sound when traveling under 20 MPH, then you should receive this fun enhancement.

Rear Seat Audio and Gaming

You'll now be able to play games on Tesla's rear screens
You'll now be able to play games on Tesla's rear screens

Enhancing the Tesla Arcade experience, passengers in the rear seats can now play games on the rear touchscreen. This feature, especially when paired with Tesla Arcade’s compatibility with PS4, PS5, Xbox Controllers, and rear-screen Bluetooth Headsets, is a welcome addition for families and long trips.

Much like the new Model 3, which received rear audio over Bluetooth support in the 2023.38 update, the new Model S and Model X will also receive this ability in the holiday update.

New Game - Castle Doombad

Tesla announced one other feature in the 2023 holiday update that hadn’t been previously leaked, and that’s a new game called Castle Doombad. Castle Doombad is a single player tower defense, puzzle-like game that’s currently available on iOS and Android, but has an upcoming release on PC and the Nintendo Switch. This game is expected to require MCU 3.

Release Timeline

The rollout of the 2023 Holiday Update is expected to follow a similar timeline to last year. Tesla announced that the update will roll out starting next week. However, it’s not clear whether this will also include FSD Beta testers that are on a 2023.27 update.

Looking back at the 2022 Holiday Update, it started on December 13 and took about a week to get to the entire fleet.

Speculation on Future Features

Like a spoiled child on Christmas morning, Tesla owners still ask, “Is that it?” Well… possibly, but there may be more to look forward to early next year as Tesla builds off of the new High-Fidelity Park Assist feature.

Advanced Smart Summon: Upgrading the Smart Summon feature to be more intuitive and efficient, especially in complex parking scenarios.

Reverse Summon / Park Seek: What happened to Tesla dropping its passengers and driver off at the location and then finding a parking spot on its own?

Enhanced FSD Visualizations: Expanding the Full Self-Driving visualizations to more regions or models or completely recreating the FSD visualizations using the same neural networks Tesla is using for the High-Fidelity Park Assist feature.

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