[2/n] Tesla USB Wireless Sync

Part 2 of an n part series :) How to wirelessly synchronize your Tesla Camera footage

The Problem: Small drive size, lack of networking and big frequent videos created by Tesla sentry mode make using the feature a pain.

Tesla added a Sentry Mode to their existing Dash Cam capture feature (awesome) however it quickly fills everything but the beefiest of USB Thumb drives, cannot be viewed from the car, and requires hoofing your data manually between car and computer on a regular enough cadence as to make the feature unusable. Further more, it doesn’t automatically archive (delete) old footage so when drive fills up it just stops working.

Fortunately, the internet (various sources) have provided a pretty workable solution

For my case, my car now wirelessly synchronizes and archives Dash and Security Camera footage whenever I’m parked at home onto my Apple Time Capsule (1TB), making it easy to access whenever I’m at a computer and eliminating the need to manually transfer. And as an added bonus, I can wirelessly transfer MP3’s to be stored in my car for listening while on the road.

Solution Pictured

The solution requires some mild nerding (I’d give it a 3/5 difficulty) — And about $70

The howto is pretty straight forward, but it does involve installing a customized build of raspian linux onto a rasberry pi, configuring it with your backup source of choosing, and getting it all running. It is $45–$70 for the parts however on the brightside, when (if) the over the air update comes obliviating the need for this hack you still have some pretty re-usable tech toys for your next hack. If you read through this and feel like it’s out of reach, shoot me an email and maybe we can workout something where I send you a pre-configured hack :)

First step is a little Amazon Shopping run

  • $20 — Rasberry Pi Zero W — This little guy is a full computer on a chip, and a hackers best friend. It features Wifi and a small footprint as well as the ability to run completely off USB power, and even has HDMI out (though that won’t be needed). Can you believe that they sell a wireless computer for $20 these days?
  • $20 — Samsung 128GB MicroSD Card — This is required as well though you can save a little by getting a smaller one (Don’t go under 32GB), I like this size as it gives me room for music and a good amount of storage space for videos in case of being outside sync range for a bit
  • $30 — Jackery Bolt (Optional) — You will need a cable to connect your Rasberry Pi to the USB port on your Tesla, but you can get away with one that is $5, however, the Tesla turns off it’s power to USB on occasion, and does so suddenly which causes your little Rasberry Pi all kinds of potential heartburn (Corrupt files, incomplete synchronizations), as Linux doesn’t really like being turned off all of the sudden. Enter the Jackery Bolt, which is one of those batteries you can use to charge your phone. But it has a VERY important feature that we need here, besides being able to charge mulitple phones at the same time, the Jackery can also charge AND be used to charge another device at the same time (normal cell phone battery backups only do one at a time). Thus, by plugging the Jackery into Tesla, and your Rasberry into Jackery, you have a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Source) for your little car computer. So this is a good purchase. Also, can use it to charge phone so that’s nice.
  • $7 — Case (Optional) — Rasberry Pi Zero W is just a board, and if you touch it wrong it can short the whole thing out. It’s a good idea to buy some sort of a case. I got this one because it was cheap, looked nice and was small.

Next, we need to setup our Rasberry Pi to pretend to be a USB drive, and to synchronize the contents wirelessly

Fortunately, a user on Reddit setup a pretty good solution, someone took it and made it an open source GitHub project. Here’s where I hit the first snag, it seems this GitHub is not actively maintained and the version there doesn’t work with current Tesla Software update, however with some reading and digging you can find that there is an active fork maintained by cimryan, and he even responds quickly (at least when I tried) to issues when reported. The documentation on that repo has very clear steps for how to get install Raspian (it’s from an image), and even a one step (which is maybe 3 steps) configuration that is as simple as editing a text file and running a few commands.

Synchronizing to Apple Time Capsule was a bit of a challenge because of the odd file access method Apple chose to use (CFS/Samba), and the number of configurations required to get it working correctly

There are a number of other choices available besides Time Capsule, including:

  • Windows File Sharing
  • Mac File Sharing
  • SFTP / rsync

And a much longer list of more commercial options like Dropbox, One Drive, and Amazon S3, thanks to integration with rclone4pi — Though the limits to size or the cost on some of these makes them poor choices for sync destinations anyway.

For the Time Capsule, I had this issue and had to configure my setup using a fork, but after that it worked swell.

Kevin Lohman, Software Engineer, Father, Story Teller, and former US Navy Sailor (who never set foot on a ship)

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