Skip to main content

Mod turns Tesla Model S into surveillance bot that tracks faces, license plates

A mod created by security researcher Truman Kain is capable of transforming a Tesla Model S into a surveillance bot that can spot, track, and store license plates and faces.

Kain debuted the Surveillance Detection Scout at the Defcon 27 hacker conference, which took place over the weekend in Las Vegas. The project plugs an Nvidia Jetson Xavier computer into the USB port of the Tesla Model S dashboard to turn the electric vehicle’s built-in cameras into a surveillance system for additional protection.

The tool, which is also compatible with the Tesla Model 3 and Model X, uses open-source image recognition software that alerts the vehicle’s owner if it keeps seeing the same license plate. If the car is parked, it will also be monitoring the faces that the cameras see and send an alert if someone keeps appearing. According to Kain, the mod aims to warn Tesla owners if someone is surveying the electric vehicle to steal or sabotage it, or worse, break into the driver’s home.

The alerts are delayed by about a minute because of the video recording time, and Tesla owners who would like to upgrade their vehicle with the mod will need to create their own web server. The project uses off-the-shelf hardware and available code though, so anybody with working knowledge on the required components will be able to use the Surveillance Detection Scout.

“It turns your Tesla into an A.I.-powered surveillance station,” said Kain. “It’s meant to be another set of eyes, to help out and tell you it’s seen a license plate following you over multiple days or even multiple turns of a single trip.”

Kain, meanwhile, admitted that transforming the Tesla’s built-in cameras, which are the same ones used for the vehicles’ Autopilot and Sentry Mode, into surveillance devices presents an ethical issue. He purposely left out a feature that will allow a large group of Surveillance Detection Scout systems to combine license plate recognition data to create a crowdsourced version of the commercial automatic license plate reader systems, which have been banned for police use in some states.

The Surveillance Detection Scout also carries the risk of sending alerts against innocent people, such as neighbors who drive or walk within the same area. There are also some privacy implications, as the data that a single Tesla vehicle can collect may open up avenues for abuse.

Editors' Recommendations

Aaron Mamiit
Aaron received a NES and a copy of Super Mario Bros. for Christmas when he was 4 years old, and he has been fascinated with…
Canadian cop chased a Tesla Model S that appeared to have no one in it
tesla model s 300 mile range 2016

Highway police in the Canadian province of Alberta chased a Tesla Model S that appeared to have no one in it. But when they eventually got to look inside, they saw two occupants apparently fast asleep, with the seats fully reclined.

The incident occurred in July, with police announcing charges on Thursday, September 17.

Read more
Tesla Model S vs. Lucid Air
Lucid Air electric car

Nothing lasts forever, and the reign of the Tesla Model S is no exception. It’s been the best all-around, all-electric large sedan since its debut in 2012, but that's mostly because it was the only one in its class until the Taycan came racing out of Porsche’s production line last year. But now, there's an American rival: The Lucid Air.

If the Air is as good as it looks on paper, the Model S will have to take a knee to the new king. We won’t know until the Air hits the production line and is tested next year, though. Until then, we can only speculate based on the information we received from its September 9 reveal. Below, we compare both electric vehicles (EVs) with the information we have on the Lucid Air so far. Will Tesla continue its dominance? Decide for yourself.
Tech features
Lucid Air

Read more
Tesla Model S breaks through the 400-mile range barrier
tesla increases model s and x range

Tesla's Model S has officially broken through the 400-mile range barrier, giving it the best mileage in the electric-car market -- meaning you can turn the Autopilot on and relax for just a little while longer.

“Starting today, all North American Model S Long Range Plus vehicles have an official EPA-rated range of 402 miles, representing a nearly 20% increase in range when compared to a 2019 Model S 100D with the same battery pack design,” the electric-car company led by Elon Musk said in a message on its website.

Read more