Watch Tesla's 'Sentry Mode' Use Its Cameras To Catch Someone Keying The Crap Out Of A Model 3

Image: CBS4 (screengrab from YouTube-arrows and text added by David Tracy)

Earlier this year, Tesla released “Sentry mode,” a feature that uses Tesla vehicles’ already-existing cameras to provide security footage of possible threats. The feature apparently works, because it just caught someone keying the bejesus out of a Tesla Model 3. And now that person has turned herself in to face criminal charges.

We’ve recently been covering the many woes of Tesla’s “Smart Summon” feature, which is meant to allow Teslas to drive themselves slowly through parking lots to their owners. But though the California-based car company has suffered gaffes like cars crashing while being smart-summoned, so too has it enjoyed triumph.

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We showed one example of this back in March, when a Tesla used its Sentry Mode to record alleged thieves breaking into the car. Now there’s a more recent incident from last weekend in Broomfield, Colorado — one that involves a Tesla Model 3's Sentry Mode capturing footage of someone apparently keying the car’s doors. Check it out:

The news comes from Denver’s CBS4, who spoke with the Tesla Model 3's owner, Alan Tweedie, who described how his car’s feature caught footage of the apparent vandal in a school parking lot. From the news site:

Tweedie said he found the damage when he got home. That’s when he decided to test his car’s newest feature: nine motion-activated cameras found in several strategic places.

“Then I found one where a woman distinctly came around with a key in her hand, dug it right in the side, walked it all the way up,” Tweedie said. “Very angry, very purposeful, definitely trying to conceal it.”

The video above shows the clip taken by one of the Model 3's cameras, apparently showing a woman keying the side of the car. That footage was evidently instrumental in solving the case, with CBS4 writing:

Without video, this type of crime would be difficult to investigate due to the usual lack of physical evidence, a spokesperson for Broomfield police said.

On top of that, the Broomfield Police Department wrote on its Facebook page that the video yielded “hundreds of tips,” and that police eventually identified the suspect who on Wednesday night “turned herself in and was booked at the Broomfield Detention Centre on the charge of Criminal Mischief, a class 6 felony.”

“We appreciate the community’s help solving this case,” the police’s post concludes.

CBS4 says officers estimate that repairing the paint damage will cost around $3,000. Tweedie described the long scratch in the CBS4 story, saying:

You can feel down to bare metal and you can see it’s scratched all the way completely through the paint,

There’s no word on what might have caused the suspect to key this vehicle.

While this situation is a pretty crappy one, it does highlight what seems like a pretty good feature. People spend so much money on their cars that it just makes sense to have a way to monitor that huge investment to make sure it’s safe.

In case you’re curious about how Sentry Mode works, here’s how Tesla describes it on its website:

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 centre display, and plays music at maximum volume from the car’s audio system.

If a car switches to “Alarm” state, owners will also receive an alert from their Tesla mobile app notifying them that an incident has occurred. They’ll be able to download a video recording of an incident (which begins 10 minutes prior to the time a threat was detected) by inserting a formatted USB drive into their car before they enable Sentry Mode.

It seems like a nice, useful way to use the car’s already-existing hardware. Nice.

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