As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout parts of the world, conference calls have become a staple in many people’s lives. In the midst of the pandemic last year, Elon Musk stated that video conferencing within a Tesla would “definitely [be] a future feature.” Well, Tesla Model S owner and Mass Luminosity CEO Angel Munoz decided that the future is now.
“Both my wife and I have Teslas. She drives a Model X and I drive a Model S. I just always thought what an incredible piece of real estate is right in the center there,” he told Teslarati. “You know, quite frankly, I’m not going to watch movies in my car, not going to play games in my car—and I’m a gamer. Not interested. But I will do a video conference.”
Munoz happens to be the co-creator of Beacon, a browser-based video and voice conferencing service. He did not initially plan to create Beacon for Tesla, but seemed enticed by the challenge of bringing the service to his car.
Munoz worked closely with Beacon’s Senior VP of Technology Teodor Atroshenko for almost a year to develop Beacon for Tesla. “It didn’t work in the beginning. It didn’t work at all. It took us a while,” he said.
The pair seemed to take a page right out of Elon Musk’s handbook while developing Beacon for Tesla, too. They appear to have gone all out, introducing features and specs to Beacon for Tesla, like 4K ultra high definition, 3D stereo audio, and the ability to transfer calls seamlessly from desktop to phone to Tesla’s infotainment system with a click of a button.
“Teodor and I, we took it as a personal challenge…And we didn’t have to reverse engineer anything,” he explained. “We just had to be aware of how [Tesla] restricts things. And then we created Beacon on the web in a way that it’s immediately accessible by being safe.”
In January 2021, Munoz and Atroshenko made a breakthrough and were able to successfully complete a video conference call in the CEO’s Model S. Beacon for Tesla uses the car’s mics, speakers, and video panel. However, they were not able to access Tesla’s in-cabin camera.
“So right now the way that we have it is that it syncs between the camera on your phone and the call. But we cannot access the [in-cabin] camera without permission,” Munoz stated.
Beacon is open to working with Tesla to bring the full power of its video and audio conferencing service to owners like Munoz himself. He told Teslarati that Beacon for Tesla beta has a tentative launch date set for mid-March 2021.
However, Tesla owners will still be able to use Beacon in their vehicles when it launches. Munoz explained that Tesla owners won’t have to download an app to use Beacon since it is optimized for Chromium browsers, the same engine used for Tesla browsers. So users would just have to log-in to access the service. He noted that Tesla actually saves cookies now so logging into accounts would be easier.
Munoz had one suggestion for Elon Musk about access to browser information in Teslas, though. If Munoz had the chance to talk to Musk he would say:
“Elon, keep that, but make it like you do other things on your Tesla. For example, if you’re going to open the glove compartment…you can make it that it pops a security code that you need to put in or if you want to open your car, you can make a security code. I have both, so do the same for the browser. So, the browser saves that, but before you launch the page, have that security code and then it launches the page. I would love to tell him [Elon] that’s the right way of going about that.”
The Age of the Autonomous Vehicles
Tesla has been dubbed by owners and some experts in the industry as not only the leading EV automaker, but the future leader of autonomous vehicles as well. As a long-time Tesla Model S owner, Munoz seems to understand the future Elon Musk envisions for Tesla with regards to autonomy and the Robotaxi fleet.
“Think about the possibilities. Imagine this. I have a Model 3, and let’s say that autonomous driving becomes a reality—obviously that’s still kinda up in the air,” he said.
“But let’s say that someone is being picked up in a Model 3, and something happens or something, I can call the car and [contact the passenger].” Munoz described other scenarios where an in-car Tesla video conference call would be useful as well.
His examples pointed out that autonomous vehicles would still need some sort of human interaction and communication between the car owner and the passenger. And if there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s that conference calls are a good way to communicate and interact in the absence of physical presence.