Tesla is rolling out new software features designed to help drivers of its electric cars keep their dogs safe, as well as their vehicles. CEO Elon Musk had earlier this week, and now both offerings are official.
Dog Mode is designed for owners who might want to leave their furry companion inside a car -- while running an errand, for instance -- without risking the dangers of overheating cars. To use the feature, drivers pull up the car's climate control options, select Keep Climate On and choose the Dog setting, then set a temperature preset. The Tesla will then keep the car's cabin at a safe temperature while showing a message on the infotainment system so that passersby don't worry about Fido's health.
Running the climate control while the car is parked will of course use some battery charge, so Tesla says that owners will receive an alert on their mobile app if the car's battery drops to 20 percent charge while using Dog Mode. Tesla also notes that drivers should check if there are any local laws prohibiting leaving a dog in the car before using the function. Dog Mode builds on Tesla's existingfunction, which can activate the climate control to prevent the inside of the car getting dangerously hot to keep animals or children safe.
The other update is Sentry Mode, which is intended to provide a little more security when a Tesla is parked. When the car is set to Sentry Mode, it will display a warning on the car's infotainment system if a "minimal threat" is detected. For a more severe security issue, such as someone breaking a window, Sentry Mode will sound the car's alarm and begin playing music through the audio system at full volume, as well as alerting the car's owner via the Tesla smartphone app. (Tesla doesn't specify what music will be played, but hopefully it's something loud and attention-getting, rather than, say, soothing classical.)
In addition, when Sentry Mode is triggered, the car will retain recorded footage from its built-in cameras for the 10-minute period prior to the alarm activation. The footage can be downloaded onto a USB stick, presumably for sharing with your insurance agency or local law enforcement.
It's worth noting that Sentry Mode is not automatically activated. Owners must choose the option every time they park the car and want to use it. The software update is rolling out to Model 3 sedans today, and will soon become available on Model S and Model X vehicles built after August 2017.
There's one final safety and security upgrade that Tesla announced today. The car's built-in dashcam function will now also record video from the car's side-mounted cameras, in addition to the forward-facing camera. That could provide even more evidence for an insurance claim after a car accident, for instance.