Mounting a dashcam in a car is also more and more common. There are situations in which it can be very helpful. For example, to prove the question of guilt in an accident undoubtedly. In case of a parking damage with hit-and-run, the own insurance company can be informed about the number plate of the person who caused the accident. If you drive a newer Tesla car, you even have the comfort of knowing that the Dashcam function is standard in the car. But owners of older vehicles also have the possibility to retrofit a Dashcam. This article explains the possible variants.
Dashcams and privacy
The legal view for Dashcams is still vaguely defined in some countries, but with the automatic overwriting of the videos you are actually everywhere on the legally safe side. Most devices only store the videos for one hour, as long as you don’t interrupt the recording manually. In any case, authorities and insurance companies in Europe are also increasingly interested in Dashcam videos of a claim to clarify the question of guilt. This is different in the USA, where videos are often even published to find the culprit. In Europe, however, this is not allowed to protect privacy.
Integrated dashcam for Tesla vehicles with MCU2
All Tesla models with a production date of March 2018 or later have the infotainment computer MCU2 installed. With the MCU2 it is possible to use the Tesla’s autopilot cameras as dashcams. For this purpose, a USB stick must be connected to one of the front USB ports. Since this stick is also often exposed to strong temperature fluctuations, it is recommended to use a special MicroSD card with a USB adapter instead. Once a USB device is connected and properly formatted, it can be used to store Dashcam videos. With the sentry mode, recordings are also made while the vehicle is parked. As soon as something moves in the immediate vicinity, the Dashcam records.
With this Tesla integrated dashcam, the images of the front camera, the two side-to-rear cameras and the rear camera are stored. Since software update 2020.12.5, the videos can also be viewed directly on the screen of the Tesla. However, viewing on a mobile phone via WLAN or a mobile phone connection is not possible. Apart from a USB storage device, there are no additional costs. A very useful installation, which has already brought many a vandalism offender to justice. This video shows a sentry mode recording of a side camera:
Older Model S and Model X models can also get this Dashcam capability by upgrading the MCU2 (approx. 2500 USD, not yet available outside the US). Provided that the vehicle is equipped with the Autopilot AP2.5 Hardware or the “FSD Computer” (AP3), or was already upgraded to AP3 by purchasing FSD.
- Low costs. If the vehicle already has the right “hardware”, only the purchase of a USB storage device is necessary. My USB device recommendation is a MicroSD card with an improved durability designed for Dashcam operation.
- Four cameras. The side cameras are extremely helpful in case of parking damage. The guard mode saves videos from these four cameras as soon as it detects movement near the vehicle.
- Not available for older Model S and Model X with MCU1 (Only with paid MCU2 upgrade and “FSD Computer” upgrade)
- No video storage in the cloud and no video viewing via mobile phone app.
- The battery of the car will run down much faster when using the sentry mode.
- Resolution is only HD Ready (1280×720 pixels), but this is sufficient for most applications.
Retrofit installation Dashcam for older Tesla Model S and Model X
For older Model S and Model X with MCU1 there is also another possibility to equip the car with a dashcam. The company IRO produces individually adapted dashcams, which are mounted under the rearview mirror:
- Moderate price
- Videos available via mobile phone app and a WLAN connection.
- Easy installation, as power is branched via Y-cable directly from the power plug in the rearview mirror. No external cables.
- Resolution only Full HD (1920×1080 pixels) is however completely sufficient for most applications.
- Shipping from China (Attention: customs fees!)
- Only front camera possible.
- Battery of the car gets empty much faster when the camera is used 7x24h
- Any interference with the 12V power supply system could maybe void the warranty on the vehicle. But it looks like it depends on which country you are. In US, it doesn’t look like a problem. In general, you should be careful with modifications if the vehicle is still under warranty and check this with Tesla before installing aftermarket parts.
Due to the higher resolution, the videos are clearer than with the Tesla integrated Dashcam. However, there are also higher costs. The Dashcam models from IRO are dependent on the autopilot version:
External retrofit dashcams
External dashcams are the deluxe version in terms of image quality, as there are also 4K products on the market. However, you have to ask yourself for what 4K is really necessary with a dashcam. Some external Dashcams can even upload their videos directly to a cloud server on the internet via a mobile WLAN hotspot. In case of theft of the vehicle or the Dashcam, the videos are not lost.
Well-known and high-quality products come, for example, from the manufacturer Blackvue. Unfortunately, they are also expensive. A cheaper alternative with excellent value for money is the Vantrue N2 Pro:
- 4K picture quality possible (if needed).
- Compared to IRO, there are also external dashcams with front and rear camera.
- Via WLAN, it is also possible to store the videos on the internet.
- Recording with parked vehicle depending on the power source (continuous current necessary!).
- Only front and rear camera possible. No side view.
- Installation more complicated and costly. External cables necessary (the optional rear camera is connected to the front camera with a cable).
- Any interference with the 12V power supply system could maybe void the warranty on the vehicle. But it looks like it depends on in which country you are. In US, it doesn’t look like a problem. In general, you should be careful with modifications if the vehicle is still under warranty and check this with Tesla before installing aftermarket parts.
- Battery of the car gets empty much faster when the camera is used 7x24h
The best Dashcam system by far is certainly the integrated solution from Tesla. Only with this system it is possible to film from the side of the vehicle and most parking damages should occur in this area. In vehicles with at least AP2 and MCU1 you could upgrade the Dashcam with a MCU2 upgrade and an FSD computer upgrade. But the costs for this are really high. Depending on when you bought FSD, it costs between 2000 and 7500 USD. The necessary MCU2 upgrade should also cost around 2500 USD.
The IRO Dashcams are an inexpensive and inconspicuous alternative, without external cables. Of course, one has to accept the corresponding concessions and for example do without rear and side cameras.
In my opinion, the External Dashcam offers too little added value to justify the effort of cabling. But if you absolutely want to equip a vehicle with AP1 with a rear-facing dashcam, there is no way around this solution. If you have legal concerns about privacy, you can buy a sticker for the sentry mode (scroll down a bit in the product list).