Futurists and car makers envision a day when cars would drive themselves while humans sit back and relax or chat on the way to their destinations. that future is still far away given innumerable considerations but one can always start with baby steps, like getting out of the parking space on its own. That’s what Tesla newly released Smart Summon was supposed to deliver but, confirming increasing reports from owners, Consumer Reports’ review found it to be severely lacking, even dangerous.
Smart Summon, which was part of the major software update released at the end of September, built upon Tesla’s previous regular Summon feature. On paper, it would allow owners of compatible cars to push and hold a button on a smartphone, making the car drive out of its parking spot and navigate to the owner or some pre-defined location. En route, it would avoid hazards, pedestrians, and other cars, including ones driving in and out of parking themselves.
The feature does work but only under almost perfect conditions as Consumer Reports tested. Tesla itself lays out the requirements for Smart Summon to work, including having the car within sight and only using in private parking lots. The latter, however, seems to be problematic as the car sometimes mistakes being on a public road and just stops moving.
Consumer Reports’ findings come on the heels of mounting complaints from Tesla customers about the unreliability and even the danger of Smart Summon. A few have recorded barely missing accidents while some were not so lucky in avoiding damaging their cars. Fortunately, no human casualties have been reported so far.
Consumer Reports chides Tesla for marketing the new feature as the first part of its Full Self-Driving suite. If that were the case, then Smart Summon might be a foreboding glimpse into that future. Tesla has yet to respond to these and other reports but it might only be a matter of time as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is already taking note.