Tesla ‘Dog mode’ and ‘Sentry mode’ are now live to guard your car and pets

Tesla has officially released two features for its electric vehicles aimed at protecting what owners love: their car and pets, as the company looks to leverage its ability to deliver a continuous stream of new capabilities via over-the-air software updates.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been tweeting about these two features, known as Dog mode and Sentry mode for weeks. And now, they’re here for electric vehicles equipped with Enhanced Autopilot and built after August 2017.

Dog mode is meant to accomplish two things: keep dogs, or perhaps a hamster or cat, in a climate-controlled environment, if left unattended in a vehicle, and let passersby know their status.

This should be confused with Tesla’s Cabin Overheat Prevention feature, which when active, “prevents the interior temperature from exceeding 105F/40C for up to 12 hours after you exit your vehicle.”

Dog Mode does — and should — allow for owners to adjust the temperature because cabin overheat protection shouldn’t be used if anyone is in the car — kids or pets.

To enable Dog Mode, owners tap the fan icon at the bottom of the touchscreen when their car is parked. Owners push “Keep Climate On to DOG, and then make adjustments within temperature limits. “Dog Mode will stay on after you leave your car. If you your battery reaches less than 20% charge, you will receive a notification on your mobile app,” according to the software update information.

The screen display is also new. In the video below, the screen shows the interior temperature of the vehicle and a message that reads “my owner will be back soon.”

Depending on state and local laws, it doesn’t matter if a dog is sitting in an air conditioned environment. And the feature could be abused or simply misused. Leaving animals unattended in vehicles for extended periods of time, even with the temperature controlled, is never a great idea, particularly in certain environments and seasons.

Sentry mode is a bit more involved. Tesla said in a blog post Wednesday that “Sentry mode” will continuously monitor 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.

Owners will receive an alert on their Tesla app if the car switches to “alarm state,” according to the company. And because sentry mode taps into the built-in forward-facing cameras as a dash cam, owners can download a video recording of an incident. The downloadable recording begins 10 minutes prior to the time a threat was detected, Tesla said.

Sentry mode is rolling out Wednesday to U.S. Model 3 vehicles, followed by Model S and Model X vehicles that were built after August 2017.

In October, Tesla released version 9.0 of its software, which featured a number of updates, including a new UI on the center display and the ability to use the forward-facing camera. The dash cam feature is available only in Tesla vehicles built after August 2017.

Elon Musk says Tesla vehicles will soon get a ‘Sentry Mode’

Tesla owners may soon have a way to see (and record) damage that happens to their vehicles when they’re unattended.

Tesla will roll out “Tesla Sentry Mode” for all cars with Enhanced Autopilot, CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet Tuesday. Musk didn’t provide any more information about when this feature might be available and how it might work.

TechCrunch has reached out to Tesla for more details.

The name suggests that this feature would stand guard, so to speak, by either keeping the dash cam on while parked or having it automatically turn on if the car is hit or being tampered with. It could operate similar to aftermarket product Owl security camera; although, again, details are scant.

In October, Tesla released version 9.0 of its software, which featured a number of updates, including a new UI on the center display and the ability to use the built-in forward-facing cameras as a dash cam. The dash cam feature is available only in Tesla vehicles built after August 2017.

The dash cam feature currently lets owners record and store onto a USB flash drive video footage captured by their car’s forward-facing camera. Owners first must configure a USB flash drive in Windows or MS-DOS file architecture and add a base-level folder in the flash drive called TeslaCam. The configured USB flash drive can then be inserted into either one of the USB ports in the front of the vehicle. When properly configured, the dash cam icon pops up on the status bar with a red dot indicating that it is recording.

Owners can tap the icon to save a 10-minute video clip or press and hold to pause recording. Recordings that aren’t downloaded are automatically deleted.

GM’s Super Cruise just beat out Tesla’s Autopilot in Consumer Reports ranking

Tesla’s Autopilot is often touted as the most capable and advanced driver assistance system available on the market today. But in Consumer Reports’ view that honor actually goes to Cadillac’s Super Cruise.

The consumer organization gave Super Cruise the top spot in its first-ever ranking of partially automated driving systems because it is the best striking a balance between technical capabilities and ensuring drivers are paying attention and operating the vehicle safely.

That’s an important distinction that means CR is considering a lot more than simply the technical capabilities of any one system.

CR evaluated four systems: Super Cruise on the Cadillac CT6, Autopilot on Tesla Model S, X and 3 models, ProPilot Assist on Infiniti QX50 and Nissan Leaf, and Pilot Assist on Volvo XC40 and XC60 vehicles. The organization said it picked these systems because they’re considered the most capable and well known in the industry.

Testers looked at the capability and performance of the tech, how easy the system is to use, and how well it monitored and kept the driver engaged. Testers also looked at how the system responded if the driver ignored warnings.

Tesla Autopilot scored higher than any other system for capability and ease of use. But Cadillac did a better job of making it clear when it’s safe to use, keeping drivers engaged and reacting when someone is unresponsive to the warnings.

A partially automated driving system — some use the term semi-autonomous — typically uses sensors such as cameras and radar as well as mapping data combined with software to assist with some driving tasks in certain conditions and wi . For instance, these systems might provide lane keeping and adaptive cruise control on highways.

The ProPilot Assist system used by Nissan and Infiniti fell to third place and Volvo’s system brought up the rear with poor marks (compared to its competitors) in nearly every category.

The consumer organization is particularly wary of how these systems are marketed and believe that automakers can send “mixed messages” that suggest these systems have autonomous or self-driving capabilities.

CR’s tests appear to have already had an affect, in at least how these systems are marketed. CR said that Volvo changed the language used to describe Pilot Assist, which was listed on its website under autonomous driving. Volvo no longer connects Pilot Assist to autonomous driving.

Tesla’s Autopilot VP is leaving for Intel

Tesla’s VP of Autopilot and low-voltage hardware, Jim Keller, is leaving the company, Electrek first reported.

In a statement to TechCrunch, Tesla said it appreciates “his contributions to Tesla and wish the best,” a spokesperson said.

“Tesla is deeply committed to developing the most advanced silicon in the world and we plan to dramatically increase our investment in that area while building on the world-class leadership team we have in place,” the spokesperson said.

Keller’s plan is to head to Intel, where he’ll be an SVP working on developing microprocessors. His first day will be April 30, according to Intel.

“I had a great experience working at Tesla, learned a lot, and look forward to all the great technology coming from Tesla in the future. My lifelong passion has been developing the world’s best silicon products,” Keller said in an Intel press release. “The world will be a very different place in the next decade as a result of where computing is headed. I am excited to join the Intel team to build the future of CPUs, GPUs, accelerators and other products for the data-centric computing era.”

At Tesla, Pete Bannon will serve as Keller’s replacement. Bannon is a former Apple chip engineer who helped design Apple’s A5-AP chips. Meanwhile, Tesla Director of AI and Autopilot Vision will have “overall responsibility” for Autopilot software, Tesla said.

It’s worth noting Tesla’s Autopilot software has been under scrutiny following a fatal crash in Mountain View last month. The National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are currently conducting investigations pertaining to the crash, which Tesla said involved Autopilot.

Tesla makes Autopilot easier to use in the Model 3

The Model 3 now has a new way to control Autopilot. The company recently sent out an update that moved the controls from the center infotainment stack to the steering wheeling. Previously, drivers had to use the large screen to change Autopilot’s speed and cruise distance and in doing so, required drivers to take their eyes off the road to change these options.

The Model 3 is an exercise in minimalism, and to that end, the company is seemingly still working out the best interface. To that end, the controls on the Model 3’s steering wheel were purposely not labeled or dedicated to a specific function and instead change depending on the car’s role.

Thanks to the 2018.12 update, the right-hand scroll wheel controls the speed of the vehicle while the buttons flanking that wheel changes the follow distance. The new controls do not replace the existing controls but rather supplement them.

During our review of the Model 3, we noted the sparse cockpit design and found it good and bad. On the one hand, it’s terrific to have an unobstructed view of the road – it’s as pure as driving experience as rolling down the track in the soapbox derby car of your youth, and it leaves you feeling connected to the road itself. But yet the car feels too reliant on the center touchscreen, which often requires drivers to look away from the road for simple commands.

Tesla is operating under increasing scrutiny following a fatal accident that involved Autopilot. Updates like this show the company is at least listening to owners and updating its vehicles in kind.

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