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Home / Business / People using Tesla's new Smart Summon feature are already in trouble, and it's hard to be shocked

People using Tesla's new Smart Summon feature are already in trouble, and it's hard to be shocked



Just days ago, Tesla announced its new version 10 software update, which included such things as the opportunity playing Cuphead and watching Netflix while in the park, as well as their new Smart Summon feature, which frees humanity from the brutal indignity of short trips to their cars in parking lots. As you can imagine, people have been trying out the Smart Summon feature eagerly, which led to Twitter posts by people discovering that maybe, just maybe, it's not quite perfect.

Smart Summon is quite dramatic. It allows an owner to call from a distance (just a line of sight, and be ready to stop the 4,000-pound machine you have to drive through the public areas) straight to you, so your lazy butt doesn't have to go to the car.

Now I freely admit that the Smart Summon seems pretty cool, and it is by no means a negligible achievement – it is a very limited form of autonomous driving as the car drives itself to the owner, which is a big deal. I also think that Tesla has underestimated the chaos of real-world parking lots and overestimated their technology, and none of them surprise me.

Part of the reason I'm not so shocked is that in Tesla's own introductory video for the feature, they showed this:

It's impressive, even if the video shows something quite questionable:

Yes, it looks like that car was called and to get to the driver it drives what seems to be the wrong way down the parking lot. You can see all the cars parked at the opposite angle, and that lane is narrow enough that it is almost certainly a road and not the way Tesla drives.

It actually seems okay, as this tweet explains: [19659003]

Well, even though this road is actually two-way, this reveals that Smart Summon the algorithm does not look at things that human drivers will notice, such as the fact that they seem to run the wrong way down a lane. Maybe Smart Summon knew this? Maybe I should cut it a little slack?

Maybe. But then I started noticing tweets like these:

In this, an accident was narrowly avoided, and although, yes, the person who does not support has By the way, I'm pretty sure a human driver would have noticed the taillights (see other video) and noticed that Lexus backed up and stopped, because in this parking lot this kind of thing happens all the time, and just because you is the right way, it does not mean you are just sealing through. I don't think a (relatively awake) person would have any problem here.

Tesla owner's admission that also "The other party thinks I was driving because I ran to my car before he came out." It raises all kinds of problems, not least is the question of actually sending a 4,000 pound machine into a public parking lot?

If you had a 12 foot long 4000 pound R / C car and you wanted to drive it (slowly, of course) in a public parking lot, do you think someone might have a problem with that? If so, how is this so different?

There are several of these, like this guy who only used Smart Summon in his own empty driveway:

[19659003] Again impressive technically, but I can get one 15-year-old with a student's permission to hit a car into the side of a garage for much less money. I mean, it's cool, advanced AI can now run into the side of a garage, I guess.

Here's another one:

In this case, Tesla would not go the right way, and while Tesla-supporting commentators have complained about the white SUV, one's speed, any reasonable human driver would have stopped at that time and looked to see if anyone was coming, which doesn't look like Tesla did.

The Smart Summon can be stopped at any time by the owner removing the finger from a button on the phone app and then stopping the car immediately. I suppose it could also mean that a Tesla could end up stopping traffic in the parking lot if someone drops their phone or the battery dies or other phone related issues, but it's better than the car just going anyway.

Version 10 Release Notes for Smart Summon states that

"You are still responsible for your car and must always monitor it and its surroundings."

which of course is true, but this is still a truly unique use of a car, for better or worse. On the plus side, sure, it's great to impress people and not get wet in the rain or to have to go to your car, possibly with a bunch of heavy crap, but at the same time, when has it ever been okay to try to be "in control" of your car from potentially over a parking lot?

There are many cases where Smart Summon has worked just fine. And yes, people make stupid shit in parking lots every day. Tesla specifies that it is a Beta release, which is good for most software, but does it make sense when that software runs a full-size car in a public space?

This is difficult. I'm pretty sure we'll see more Smart Summon issues and fender benders because the world is cluttered and confusing. I reached out to Tesla for comment, and will update when I hear something.


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