Tesla Sentry Mode – The Fancy Loud Alarm System

In its 2017 Crime report, the FBI revealed there were 773,139 thefts of motor vehicles reported in the United States. That amounted to a financial loss of around $6 billion, with an average loss per stolen vehicle of $7,708. No figures are yet available for 2018 but don’t expect to see the numbers change significantly.
Tesla Model 3 the first to get Sentry Mode 13 photos
Photo: Tesla
Tesla Model 3
In mid-February, U.S. owners of Model 3 vehicles started receiving an update called Sentry Mode. Model S and Model X owners will follow in the coming months, as Tesla seems to have decided to start fighting for a reduction of the above figures in a more active manner.

For all intents and purposes, the Sentry Mode is just a fancy alarm system, meant to subdue the attacker by hitting him with very loud noises until he feels embarrassed enough to leave or run away. But hey, whatever works to keep us from losing another $7,708 this year.

Tesla’s Sentry Mode can be found by accessing Controls > Safety & Security > Sentry Mode in the car's operating system. Once activated, it will allow the vehicle to use all of its might and systems to keep someone from stealing the car or the things in it.

The Upside

The Sentry Mode can be engaged when the car is locked and parked. When activated as described above, It begins monitoring the surrounding environment using all the weapons at its disposal: sensors, microphones, cameras, computers, and so on.

Once engaged, the system enters a Standby state. In this configuration, the Sentry Mode works pretty much as any other alarm systems, being on a lookout for any suspicious activity. That means the car is actively scanning its surroundings for threats.

As per Tesla’s own statements, as soon as a threat is deemed to be imminent, the car begins recording video of the events about to unfold.

The system considers a threat anything that comes close to it, below a certain distance Tesla did not reveal. There are two types of threats the system can recognize, based on what the one trying to approach the car is doing.

When the threat is considered to be minor, including and up to someone actually leaning on the car, the system enters an Alert state. No aggressive action is taken in this configuration, but the car does flash its lights, and the interior screen comes to life, showing a huge HAL 9000-like blinking red dot as a warning.

When someone is doing something more aggressive, say hitting the car or breaking the window, Sentry Mode goes into Alarm state. This is the configuration that lets everyone in the vicinity of the car and well beyond that know something is about to go down.

The entire car lights up and screams when such an event occurs: the screen shines brighter that it normally would, lights blink, the alarm sounds and, on top of it all, music is automatically played at maximum volume.

As an extra precaution, owners will receive an alert from their Tesla mobile app telling them an incident is in progress. A video recording of the incident, which begins 10 minutes before the time a threat was detected, will be made available for download.

The Downside

Video reviews that surfaced on the Internet shortly after the update was released show what appears to be several glitches in the system.

First, when the car’s window is down and Sentry Mode in Alert state, the system does not seem to react in any way to someone reaching with their hand inside the car. The cameras are working, which means a possible theft of belongings will be recorded, but nothing else happens to prevent the theft from occurring.

Nothing happens when the car is being rocked, either, when the Sentry Mode is in Alert state. That changes when the car is hit with a reasonable amount of force.

The entire Sentry Mode seems to be mostly camera-based, meaning that if one tries to rock the car while leaning against it in a blind spot, nothing happens. That also means the system is vulnerable to someone covering the cameras.

Below is just one of the videos showing how the Sentry Mode works and doesn’t work. If by chance you found some other interesting facts about the system, feel free to let us know in the comment section below.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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