Tesla Smart Summon and Curious Owners: What Could Go Wrong?
Smart Summon is the latest Tesla feature making headlines that aren’t good news for Tesla. The feature lets a driver remotely get his car out of a parking space and drive across the lot to where the driver stands in wait. It’s part of Tesla Version 10.0 software that became available Sept. 26. Tesla owners, a proud bunch, have chosen to video-record their initial experiences. The rollout has not been seamless, with reports of glitches, at least one low-speed collision, and a traffic summons.
Tesla has warned owners of the need to use common sense. Some of the Smart Summon issues have come to the attention of NHTSA, which has expressed concern.
The backstory: Tesla has had features that let its cars with Full Self-Driving Capability or Enhanced Autopilot do some garage-fetch things for almost five years. The concept is excellent: Ease of parking a car in a small garage, ease of getting out of the car while there’s still room (when it’s in the driveway or not yet in a parking stall). In urban areas, if every car could auto park — safely, every time — more cars could fit in a parking garage. Commercial garages could work more efficiently, and one more source of jobs for semi-skilled workers goes away.
Tesla says Smart Summon lets cars drive through a “parking lot and come to them [drivers] or their destination of choice, as long as their car is within their line of sight.” Meaning you can’t automatically get it to drive down from parking level 3. Yet. According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk:
[Smart Summon is] the perfect feature to use if you have an overflowing shopping cart, are dealing with a fussy child, or simply don’t want to walk to your car through the rain. … [But] those using Smart Summon must remain responsible for the car and monitor it and its surroundings at all times.
Tesla had self-parking problems, Consumer Reports’ Jake Fisher wrote. They’re being fixed, Tesla said. Except this story from CR online is from February 2016. Plus ca change …
Smart Summon can be made to work. It is not 100 percent hands-off, as Tesla warns. There have been incidents, including:
Another car (being driven) backing into a Tesla Model 3 that had been Smart Summoned.
Multiple parking lot traffic jams caused by Teslas moving slowly.
Some near-misses. Which are really near-collisions (see video below).
A video of a child reading in the front seat a Model 3 — alone, no parent aboard — after Smart Summon is engaged.
Some Tesla owners wondering if their car is in a Smart Summons accident if Tesla will pay for the repairs. (Our suggestion to Tesla owners: Yes, sure, Tesla has lots of cash on hand and wants you to be satisfied. So use Smart Summon with gay abandon. Then let us know how it goes.)
Smart-Summoned Tesla almost collides with a driven vehicle in a mall parking lot.
NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is on the job, and issued a statement:
NHTSA is aware of reports related to Tesla’s Summon feature. We are in ongoing contact with the company and we continue to gather information. Safety is NHTSA’s top priority and the agency will not hesitate to act if it finds evidence of a safety-related defect.
Video of Tesla Smart Summon at work and working. Mostly.