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Tesla offers 72-hour backup of Sentry Mode videos in data-collecting effort

Tesla updated its language about data collection related to Sentry Mode to specify that it is offering temporary cloud backup of videos for 72 hours in its data-collecting effort.

For years now, Tesla has been betting on its large customer fleet of vehicles equipped with cameras and sensors to gather data to help them develop autonomous driving features.

Tesla has an opt-in program for people to share their data:

We are working hard to improve autonomous safety features and make self-driving a reality for you as soon as possible.

In order to do so, we need to collect short video clips using the car’s external cameras to learn how to recognize things like lane lines, street signs, and traffic light positions. The more fleet learning of road conditions we are able to do, the better your Tesla’s self-driving ability will become.

The automaker wants to make it clear that the video clips are anonymous and can’t be linked to your specific vehicle:

We want to be super clear that these short video clips are not linked to your vehicle identification number. In order to protect your privacy, we have ensured that there is no way to search our system for clips that are associated with a specific car.

This is especially important for people after there were instances of companies being caught giving access to customer video feeds to their employees.

However, some owners have noted that Tesla has updated its language about data sharing when it comes to Sentry Mode.

Tesla now clearly says that it can link your VIN number to Sentry Mode video clips for 72 hours (hat tip to Fabien):

Separately, if you agree to allow us to collect video clips, Sentry Mode will send a short recorded video clip linked to your VIN to Tesla for temporary backup (up to 72 hours) when the Alarm state is triggered. We may also use this footage to help enhance detection for Sentry Mode. Please refer to your Owner’s Manual for more information.

The automaker has previously mentioned backup of Sentry Mode clips, but it has now confirmed that it will keep them for 72 hours, and it will only be when the “alarm/alert” state is being triggered.

Otherwise, the number of video clips Tesla would have to hold would require an enormous amount of storage.

Tesla explains the different levels of Sentry Mode:

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.

Sentry Mode was first deployed to help prevent vehicle break-ins, and one of the worries was that a thief breaking into a Tesla vehicle could steal the flash drive on which the videos are being recorded.

The company doesn’t explain how to access this backup of the videos if that was to happen, but they clearly say that the videos would be linked to your VIN and kept for 72 hours, so it should be possible.

Some people have found other solutions, like Jeda’s Model 3 USB hub, which enables you to still use the other plugs and hide your Sentry Mode drive in a hidden compartment. You can fit a Samsung portable SSD, which you need to format, in it instead of a smaller flash drive.

Electrek’s Take

This is interesting.

Sentry Mode alerts don’t happen that often. I have seen plenty of important Sentry Mode events that didn’t trigger the alert, but never when someone broke into the vehicle, which is when they can steal your drive.

So what this does is discourage thieves from stealing the drive because owners could, at least theoretically (we haven’t seen it happen yet), get the footage from Tesla and potentially identify the culprits.

This should be publicized along with Sentry Mode in general to dissuade people to mess with Tesla vehicles.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

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