All Tesla vehicles have multiple internal and external cameras that are always either recording or ready to record. As a Tesla owner, you may be wondering if the cameras are always recording, especially of you are concerned about your privacy.
In this article, I will answer all the questions you may have around whether Tesla records while driving, what it records, how it record,s and if it’s possible to even decide when it starts and stops recording. Let’s get to it!
Do Teslas Have Cameras While Driving?
Yes, Teslas have cameras that are in operation while driving. These cameras are used for a variety of purposes, including driver assistance features like autopilot and self-driving capabilities, security features like Sentry Mode, and safety features like dashcams.
The cameras are located both inside and outside of the car, with some models having as many as eight cameras. These cameras work together to provide a 360-degree view of the car and its surroundings, which is used for features like Autopilot’s advanced driver assistance capabilities and Sentry Mode’s theft prevention.
Overall, while Teslas do have cameras in operation while driving, their purpose is primarily to enhance the safety, security, and convenience of driving, rather than to invade the privacy of drivers or passengers.
Tesla vehicles are equipped with the following cameras at the least:
- Cabin camera – To monitor your driving behaviour especially for insurance and Autopilot or Full Self Driving
- Dashcam – To record monitor the road ahead of you especially in the case of a road accident
- A camera above the rear license plate – Used especially for Sentry Mode and Autopilot, Full Self Driving, and Summon
- Three cameras are mounted to the windshield above the rear-view mirror – Used especially for Sentry Mode and Autopilot or Full Self Driving
- A camera is mounted to each front fender – Used especially for Sentry Mode and Autopilot or Full Self Driving
All of these cameras are always active and ready to record while driving. However, they are all not always recording. More on that in the next section.
Does Tesla Record While Driving?
Yes, Tesla records while driving.
Tesla vehicles are equipped with a feature called “TeslaCam” or “Dashcam” that allows them to record video while driving. TeslaCam uses the vehicle’s built-in cameras to continuously record video footage from various angles around the car. This feature is primarily intended for security and safety purposes, such as capturing incidents or accidents on the road.
Most Tesla vehicles are shipped with USB sticks that you use to save the recordings.
If you have Autopilot or FSD enabled, then other cameras like the cabin camera and the external cameras on the windshield, license plates, and bumper will also get into action to watch the road and provide safe driving. However, these cameras do not record anything that you are doing.
Is Tesla Constantly Recording?
Yes, it is.
For example, in the Tesla Model 3 owner’s manual, there is a note stating: “The car is recording video data from the external cameras, front, side, and rear of the car. The video data may be used to help Tesla develop, validate, and improve safety features and other vehicle enhancements in the future.”
Also, if you have Sentry Mode enabled, rest assured that recording is nonstop. The only thing is that not all the recorded footage are saved. Only possible security incidents are saved.
It is important to note that this recording is focused on the vehicle’s external surroundings. However, some Tesla owners have reported that they have found recordings of conversations and actions stored on their cars’ hard drives. Tesla has stated that it does not enable audio recording during normal driving, and audio recording only begins if a driver starts a specific function that requires it.
Some Tesla owners have also reported that their vehicles are recording their driving habits, such as speed and braking patterns. This data is used to improve the Autopilot feature and other safety features.
However, Tesla has stated that this data is anonymized and cannot be traced back to individual drivers. It is important for you to be aware of the potential for recording in your vehicle and to make an informed decision about whether or not you are comfortable with it.
How to Get a Tesla to Record While Driving
Prepare a USB Storage Device:
- You’ll need a compatible USB flash drive, with sufficient capacity to store the recorded video footage. Tesla recommends using a high-endurance USB drive with at least 32 GB of storage. I say at least 64 GB.
Format the USB Drive:
- Before using the USB drive with TeslaCam, it must be formatted as a FAT32 drive. You can use your computer to format the drive if it’s not already in the correct format.
Insert the USB Drive:
- Insert the prepared USB drive into the glovebox USB only.
- On the car’s touchscreen display, go to “Controls” and then “Safety & Security.”
- Scroll down and find the “Dashcam” or “TeslaCam” option and enable it. Once enabled, the car will start recording video from its cameras.
NOTE: Whenever you want to start recording manually, press the dashcam icon on the top of the screen or press the camera icon on the right stalk of the steering wheel. Your Tesla will start recording the front camera, rear camera, and activated ultrasonic sensors to the flash drive. The videos will be saved in a folder named TeslaCam on the flash drive.
When you’re done recording, press the dashcam icon or camera icon again to stop recording.
Review and Save Footage (Optional):
- While driving, you can access the TeslaCam viewer on the touchscreen to review and save footage if needed. The viewer typically displays a split-screen view from multiple cameras. You can also insert the flash drive into a computer and open the TeslaCam folder. The videos will be sorted into subfolders based on the camera that recorded them (front, rear, or side).
- TeslaCam is set to automatically save video clips when certain events trigger the system. These events can include hard braking, sudden acceleration, or a collision. These event recordings are stored separately and are less likely to be overwritten.
Manually Save Footage (Optional):
- While driving, you can manually save video footage by tapping the camera icon on the touchscreen. This marks specific moments for later review.
Configure Sentry Mode (Optional):
- If your Tesla supports Sentry Mode, you can configure it to monitor your vehicle’s surroundings when it’s parked and locked. Sentry Mode will record video if it detects a potential threat. You can check out details about how to configure and view Sentry Mode.
It’s important to periodically check and maintain the USB storage device to ensure it functions properly and has enough free space. You can also access and review the recorded footage using a computer when the USB drive is connected.
Tesla Sentry Mode vs Dashcam
Before the Sentry Mode, Tesla owners relied on the Dashcam feature, which is a recording of the front-facing camera. Dashcam comes in handy in case of an accident or any other event on the road that requires evidence. Dashcam can be activated manually, or it turns on automatically when detecting an impact.
So, what distinguishes Sentry Mode from Dashcam, and which one should you use? Below, we’ll compare the two features:
- Purpose: Sentry Mode is primarily designed for security when your Tesla is parked and locked. It acts as a surveillance system to monitor your car’s surroundings and deter potential threats.
- Activation: You can enable Sentry Mode when you park your vehicle. But it only becomes active when the car is locked. It can also be activated from the Tesla mobile app.
- Recording: Sentry Mode records video footage from the car’s external cameras, including the front, rear, and side cameras, while the vehicle is parked and locked.
- Events: Sentry Mode is triggered by certain events, such as someone approaching the car, a significant motion detected around the car, or a collision (if the impact is strong enough). When an event is detected, Sentry Mode saves a video clip of the event.
- Notifications: If Sentry Mode detects an event, it displays a warning message on the car’s touchscreen and records the incident. It can also play a “suspicious” or “alarm” sound from the car’s speakers to alert nearby individuals.
- Saved Clips: Sentry Mode event recordings are saved on the TeslaCam storage device separately from regular Dashcam footage.
- Purpose: Dashcam mode is primarily designed for recording video footage while driving. It helps capture your driving experiences and can be useful for documenting accidents or incidents on the road.
- Activation: Dashcam is typically activated when you enable TeslaCam in the car’s settings menu. It records video continuously while the car is in motion.
- Recording: Dashcam records video from the car’s front, rear, and side cameras while you are driving. It provides a continuous loop of recorded footage.
- Events: Dashcam does not have event-based recording while driving. It records continuously, and you can access and save video clips manually while reviewing the footage.
- Notifications: Dashcam does not display notifications on the touchscreen or produce audible alerts. It’s primarily a passive recording system while driving.
- Saved Clips: Dashcam footage is continuously recorded and stored on the TeslaCam storage device. You can review the footage and manually save specific clips by tapping the camera icon on the touchscreen.
In summary, Sentry Mode is designed for security while the vehicle is parked and locked, with event-based recording.
Dashcam is designed for recording while driving, providing a continuous loop of footage that can be manually saved.
Both features use the same set of built-in cameras, but their functionality and purpose differ. You can use both Sentry Mode and Dashcam to enhance the security and safety of your Tesla vehicle.
While both features offer additional security to the car, Sentry Mode is preferred when you’re parking in an unfamiliar or sketchy location. The 360-degree recording ensures that all angles are covered, and the loud alarm sound, an excellent deterrent for would-be thieves.
Dashcam, on the other hand, is useful for recordings of accidents or events involving the car while driving.