Dashcams in Tesla Model 3

STS-134

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TL;DR: Get a Blackvue camera.

Long version: So I thought I'd do a write-up on my experience of installing a dashcam in the Tesla Model 3 (and I guess this would apply to the Model Y as well). These two models are special because they have no fuse box. They have some solid state technique that uses automatic circuit breakers, which open if overcurrent is detected, and close when the circuit returns to a normal state. They also apparently have current counters, and if unusual amounts of current are flowing where it doesn't expect it to, this will cause the car to throw errors (this means you can't tap a circuit for another device, even if you could find where the wires are and splice them).

So there is really only one place to take power from: the 12V power outlet in the center console. Blackboxmycar did an article on this, and has a special section for Tesla cars.

If you want to do parking mode, the only real option is to use a battery that's connected to the 12V power outlet that charges when the vehicle is on, and powers the camera when the vehicle is off, for example, the Blackvue B-124 Ultra Battery Pack, because since there isn't a fuse box, there's no way to get constant 12V power (unless you want to go through the firewall and all the way to the 12V battery, however I have no idea how this would affect the way the system maintains the 12V battery, it definitely won't throw errors but I'm not sure if the car would wake up more than it should due to excessive voltage sags). So, with only 2 wires available (for power and ground), the Blackvue happens to be the best implementation because it can do parking mode by GPS and accelerometer.

Things get even more interesting if you're like me and don't really care about parking mode, and don't need or want it the vast majority of the time. The Model 3, unlike every other car I've owned, does not switch its 12V outlet on and off based on whether the car is powered on and moving or not. It is true that the 12V outlet is powered on whenever the car is moving, but it is also powered on under several other circumstances:
  • About 5-60 minutes after you exit the vehicle
  • Whenever you "wake up" the vehicle with your mobile phone in order to check on it. For example you can check the temperature of the cabin, remotely turn on climate control, check the current location of the vehicle, etc.
  • Whenever the vehicle is charging
  • Whenever the center console display is on (i.e. the doors of the vehicle are open, someone with a key is inside the vehicle, etc.)
  • Whenever Sentry Mode (the security mode that automatically records activity near the vehicle on the built-in cameras) is active
The existence of Sentry Mode is primarily why I don't really care about parking mode (even during the once in a few months type of scenarios that causes me to use it in my other cars); while the built-in cameras are sufficient as a parking mode replacement, and offer far more angles of view, the quality of the built-in cameras is not nearly as good as that of a 4K dashcam. Sentry Mode really eats up a lot of drive battery power too, as it keeps the power in a constant state of high vampire drain since it's constantly monitoring for activity, so I don't use it very much except when parked in high risk areas.

Bottom line though, there's actually a lot of hours that the dashcam will be powered up, when it would not be powered up in other vehicles. And currently, there's no way to control it. I wish there were an option to control exactly when the car powers its 12V outlet but currently, there is not. And so once again, the Blackvue cameras have the best implementation because they can do parking mode by GPS and accelerometer and you can configure the camera to be very insensitive to motion in parking mode so it simply won't record most of the time and won't overwrite most of your videos when the car isn't moving. For the first 2 weeks or so I had the car, I had my rental car front view only dashcam (Viofo A119 V2) in the Model 3 and the card was only good for about 2 days' worth of footage because it was recording a lot of videos of...well, nothing. Including complete darkness in my garage at night when the car was charging (but those videos took up the same amount of space as any other ones of the same length). And yes, I'm aware that Viofo does have some sort of parking mode but it does this poorly compared with Blackvue, so if you are going to put a dashcam in a Model 3, I'd highly recommend just getting a Blackvue (for example my A119 V2 has the option to reduce frame rate to 1, 5, or 15 fps in parking mode, but it would still be constantly recording video of the inside of my garage while the car charges, unlike the Blackvue which will just not record anything if it's not detecting motion, and the A129 Pro apparently requires the 3 wire cable for parking mode, which is an absolute no go in the Model 3). And fortunately, while the DR900X-2CH I just installed does have the 3 wire parking mode connection option, it also does the old style parking mode via GPS and accelerometer just as well as the older Blackvue models.
 
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904nm

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I run 2 - 4 dash cams in my cars. I'm really looking forward to dumping my dash cams and running Sentry mode when I get my Tesla. With 6 view angles, and decent video quality for the purpose, I don't think the hassle of setting up additional cams will be worth it. Depending on the cicumstances of each person, I guess the additional battery drain could be a factor. Source video quality should be better than the YouTube videos but this looks pretty clear.

 

STS-134

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I run 2 - 4 dash cams in my cars. I'm really looking forward to dumping my dash cams and running Sentry mode when I get my Tesla. With 6 view angles, and decent video quality for the purpose, I don't think the hassle of setting up additional cams will be worth it. Depending on the cicumstances of each person, I guess the additional battery drain could be a factor. Source video quality should be better than the YouTube videos but this looks pretty clear.

The built-in cameras are pretty crappy. Not even 1080p resolution. Plus, there is no audio. Good for getting more camera angles but certainly not a substitute for a good dashcam.
 

kort677

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The built-in cameras are pretty crappy. Not even 1080p resolution. Plus, there is no audio. Good for getting more camera angles but certainly not a substitute for a good dashcam.
I disagree. while there is no audio, why is audio necessary?
IMHO the video quality is just fine.
the cameras are always on while driving and sentry mode needs to be engaged for each use.
I always camera up my cars and the built in cameras on the model 3 worked well enough for me.
 

STS-134

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I disagree. while there is no audio, why is audio necessary?
Because RD/LJ alerts come over audio, and it's necessary to capture it in order to have a complete log of exactly where and when the device alerted in comparison to where the LEO was.
IMHO the video quality is just fine.
I can't even read some license plates on my 4K Blackvue. How do you expect to read them on a system with even worse resolution? Furthermore, if there's a plate I want to remember and I'm not sure if it's readable on the Blackvue, I read the plate out loud. You can't even do that with the built-in cameras because there's no audio.

This system is great as a supplement, but sucks if it's all you're using.
 

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