Last week, Tesla began rolling out a new software update for its fleet. The firm introduced a host of new entertainment services like Netflix and Spotify Premium to all owners. The manufacturer also unveiled a new valet feature called Smart Summon for Full Self-Driving and Enhanced Autopilot vehicles.
In theory, the Smart Summon program allows drivers to direct their vehicle to their current location. In practice, some consumers using the feature have incurred vehicle damage and experienced harrowing near-collisions.
Smart Summon Problems
When Tesla CEO Elon Musk hyped up the Smart Summon feature at a June investors meeting, it sounded undeniably appealing. With a smartphone app, owners would be able to hail their cars to pick them up. Following the release of the update, many owners took to social media to show off the seamlessness of their autonomous valet service.
However, a few drivers experienced some unnerving mishaps while using the program.
As reported by Jalopnik, Tesla’s latest Autopilot add-on has seemingly run one owner’s Model 3 into the side of his garage. As a result, the electric vehicle now has a nasty dent in its front fender. The driver of the now damaged car notes that his driveway was empty when he performed a test summon.
In another incident, a Model 3 owner hailed their vehicle only to have a Lexus driver back into it. Typically, the Lexus driver would be at fault as they didn’t have the right-of-way when the accident occurred. However since the Tesla was driving itself, things are more complicated. Had the Model 3 owner been behind the wheel of his car, the collision might not have happened.
— Roddie Hasan – راضي (@eiddor) September 28, 2019
Similarly, Twitter user @eiddor posted a video of his Model 3 nearly being sideswiped by another vehicle while heading to his location. The owner hailed his car in a private parking lot from the opposite side of a street entrance. As his electric vehicle crossed the entryway, a fast-moving SUV nearly hit it. However, the Tesla owner disabled Smart Summon moments before a serious accident occurred.
Operator Error or Software Flaw?
Notably, Tesla issued a warning to all owners when sending out its latest software update. The firm’s Version 10 notes state, “You are still responsible for your car and must monitor it and its surroundings at all times.” The company’s advisement mirrors the one it issues for its Autopilot program. That one indicates that a driver must be in control of the vehicle while the program is active.
Despite its name, even the Full Self-Driving version of Tesla’s Autopilot isn’t capable of total autonomy.
Consequently, the automaker could respond that the above-listed incidents occurred in part or in full due to operator error. Indeed, many of the company’s fans have tweeted that the owners involved in the Smart Summon accidents shouldn’t have used the feature in a busy area with street access.
On the other hand, Musk said back in June that his engineers encountered problems getting the feature to operate correctly. Specifically, the executive noted that the challenge of developing the program is the “complexity” of parking lots. As such, the automaker wanted to ensure that Summon could operate safely and efficiently in the real world before its release.
For many Tesla owners, the company’s new car-hailing feature works as promoted. However, for an unlucky few, its functionality mirrored the Autopilot program itself; usually high-performing with a few disturbing exceptions.