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Tesla owners make over half a million ‘Smart Summons’, a few crashes bring NHTSA scrutiny

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says that their customer fleet completed over half a million ‘Smart Summon’ uses just a few days after the feature was launched, but a few of those ended up in crashes and near-miss events caught on video and the NHTSA is looking into it.

Smart Summon builds on Tesla’s previous ‘Summon’ feature, which was used by owners to move their cars autonomously for a few feet in their driveway or in tight parking situations.

With the new version, owners are able to Summon their Tesla vehicles from further away and the cars will navigate more complex parking environments.

Earlier this year, we published an exclusive first look at Tesla’s new Smart Summon in the early access program.

With the release of Tesla V10 last week, the automaker started pushing the feature to its wider fleet and CEO Elon Musk says that it’s already been used over 550,000 times:

As we reported earlier this week, several Tesla owners posted videos of their vehicles being involved in crashes and near-misses while using the new Smart Summon feature.

However, several owners involved are intentionally pushing the feature to its limits, like using it in crowded parking lots or making it cross roadways.

In the release notes of the V10 update, Tesla makes it clear that the feature is still in ‘beta’ and that, like Autopilot, drivers are still responsible for the vehicle:

“Smart Summon is designed to allow your car to drive to you (using your phone’s GPS as a target destination) or a location of your choosing, maneuvering around and stopping for objects as necessary. Like Summon, Smart Summon is only intended for use in private parking lots and driveways. You are still responsible for your car and must monitor it and it’s surroundings at all times within your line of sight because it may not detect all obstacles. Be especially careful around quick-moving people, bicycles, and cars.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that it has been made aware of those videos and they are looking into things with Tesla.

Reuters reported:

“Asked about reports of crashes involving the feature, NHTSA said it “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.”

Tesla’s Autopilot features have been under scrutiny by the NHTSA before, but they never ended up putting any blame on the features when it was involved in accidents.

Electrek’s Take

There are bound to be some accidents with the size of Tesla’s fleet.

Also, accidents in parking lots are quite common.

But as I mentioned in my last article about the aforementioned videos, Tesla owners need to be smarter about this.

The feature is in beta and people should be extremely careful when using it, especially in actual crowded parking lots.

Personally, I wouldn’t even use it if a parking lot is actually busy. Most of the accidents we have seen have been in really busy parking lots.

Also, always be ready to let go of the button as soon as something looks weird. We have seen Tesla vehicles ‘Smart Summon’ slowly into walls:

As soon as it doesn’t look right, you should stop it.

Now you could argue that this means the feature is not ready to be released to customers, but at the same time, some people are finding good use of it and having fun with it.

Should a few misuses and imperfect summons ruin it for the vast majority of owners who are being careful with the feature? I don’t think so.

We are also talking about a feature used at extremely low speed that doesn’t represent a lot of danger. If that wasn’t the case, we probably wouldn’t be having the same discussion.

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