Tesla Smart Summon’s launch hasn’t gone smoothly on social media which has prompted the NHTSA to look into the new technology.
At the end of September, Tesla rolled out its new Smart Summon feature along with version 10.0 of its vehicle’s software. This allowed any Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware to drive itself to the owner through the use of the Tesla app. The user just needs to press a button and the car will drive itself to its owner.
There are some limitations, of course. You can only use Smart Summon in private parking lots where the law doesn't explicitly state that a human needs to be behind the wheel in order for a car to be moving. You must also be within 200 feet and maintain line of sight with the vehicle.
Finally, as Tesla notes in the app itself, "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."
Over 550,000 Tesla Smart Summon uses in first few days!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 2, 2019
While Tesla CEO Elon Musk has noted that Smart Summon has been used 550,000 times as of October 2nd, not all of those summonses have gone over smoothly. Social media is abuzz with near misses and parking lot accidents that were all caused as a result of Smart Summon not quite working as advertised.
Other party thinks that I was actually driving because I ran to my car before he got out. Please give me some advise. @LikeTeslaKim @TesLatino @Model3Owners @teslaownersSV @teslamodel3fan pic.twitter.com/ScE12wHqA9— David F Guajardo (@DavidFe83802184) September 28, 2019
All this social media buzz has attracted the attention of federal regulators. According to Reuters, the NHTSA has Smart Summon on its radar and is "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."
In the meantime, the liability is clear: if your self-driving car gets into a fender bender in the parking lot, you're still at fault. DragTimes found that out the hard way when his self-driving Tesla ran a stop sign, resulting in a traffic ticket.