Tesla Sentry Mode is coming, and the company’s CEO Elon Musk has spent the last several days posting on Twitter about the advanced robbery-detection system’s features to keep would-be thieves at bay. There’s a a souped-up 360-degree dashcam system that seems to take its inspiration from heavy metal and Iron Man, and plenty of other Easter Eggs that line up with Tesla’s previous marketing efforts.
The upcoming feature, expected to roll out to electric car owners as a software update, is emblematic of Musk’s managerial approach. He announced “Sentry Mode” on January 22 with little explanation, retweeting a Tesla owner that woke up to a “monster dent” in his car. Since the announcement, Musk has been teasing an upgrade that uses the existing cameras built into every new Tesla to identify intruders as they come close.
In classic Musk fashion, “Sentry Mode” has already led to a number of pop culture references. This is, after all, the man that funded a tunnel-digging firm called The Boring Company by selling hats and flamethrowers — apparently a reference to ‘80s cult classic Spaceballs.
Tesla Sentry Mode: What Does the Name Mean?
Musk has not confirmed the source of the name, but a likely candidate is Avengers: Age of Ultron. The 2015 superhero movie sees Iron Man teaming up with Captain America and others to fight the titular villain. Iron Man’s suit packs a “sentry mode” that can activate and come to the rescue of creator Tony Stark.
This is made even more likely by the fact that Musk has actually appeared in an Iron Man film himself. The CEO appears in a brief Iron Man 2 scene where Stark agrees to help bring Musk’s electric jet to life. This establishes Musk as not only canon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but someone that has a business relationship with Stark Industries.
Another option is the feature is a reference to the Overwatch video game, which he has highly recommended and regularly plays as Soldier: 76. Damage hero Bastion packs a “Sentry Mode” to transform into a stationary powerhouse, riddling the enemy with bullets from position.
Tesla Sentry Mode: How Will It Work?
Musk has provided little detail about how the software will work, but the company’s previous releases give an image about what to expect. Tesla released a dashcam feature in September 2018 that could capture a limited amount of video:
In addition to supporting Autopilot features, the narrow forward-facing camera can now record and store video footage on a USB flash drive. This can be convenient in situations where you want a video recording of a particular incident, such as a collision. You can pause, resume, or save video recording directly from your vehicle’s touchscreen.
The system has a number of limitations. It only works with cars produced after August 2017, it requires a USB drive formatted into “FAT32” format, the user needs to create a folder on the drive for storing the footage, and it doesn’t work with the car’s rear USB ports.
“Sentry Mode” could be something far more advanced. Musk has already suggested it could capture footage from all around the car, not just the forward-facing camera. Musk also stated, tongue-in-cheek, that it could “keep Summer safe,” a reference to science-fiction cartoon Rick and Morty where the car viciously attacks outsiders to keep Morty’s sister out of harm.
Musk also stated the car will play horror movie favorite “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” by Bach when it detects a robbery, occasionally switching to the heavy metal version:
Tesla Sentry Mode: Which Cars Will Support It?
All cars bundled with the “Hardware 2” suite are set to receive the update. That’s a set of sensors designed to support full autonomous driving when software allows. It includes eight cameras, an ultrasonic sonar with twice the range and resolution of its predecessor, GPS, and an Nvidia Drive PX 2 computer powering the system. “Hardware 2” started shipping after October 2016, replacing the third-party MobilEye system as well as switching to an in-house software design. That means newer Model S and X vehicles, and all Model 3s, should offer support.
Most users have to pay to get the most out of “Hardware 2,” but that won’t be the case with Sentry Mode. Tesla normally sells a software upgrade to enhanced Autopilot to unlock the sensor suite’s most impressive features, which currently covers capabilities like “Navigate on Autopilot” that can drive down the highway and turn off at the correct exit. The unlock costs $5,000 at the time of the car’s purchase, $5,500 when purchased after a 30-day trial accessible from the in-car touchscreen, or $7,000 in other circumstances. Sentry Mode will be available to all vehicles regardless of this unlock.
Tesla Sentry Mode: When Will It Launch?
Musk has promised a “rough beta” in the next two to three weeks, placing it around early February. It’s hard to say how long it will take for a wider release after this beta period, but the “Navigate on Autopilot” feature rolled out a few weeks after its beta trials.
Tesla Sentry Mode: How Do Cars Upgrade?
Tesla is likely to roll out the update through its regular channels. The company delivers updates over Wi-fi and cellular to users, alerting them when a download is ready through a notification on either the in-car touchscreen or the registered smartphone. While installing, the car will not be able to drive and the owner must wait to finish before starting a journey.