Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Tesla Releases Smart Summon Feature in Software Update

After delays, Tesla released a software update last week that includes the Smart Summon feature which, supposedly, allows the driver to summon their once-parked car to their present location. In the real world, it is having some issues.

Jason Torchinsky, Jalopnik:

The Version 10 release notes for Smart Summon do state that

“You are still responsible for your car and must monitor it and its surroundings at all times.”

which is, of course, true, but this is still a completely unprecedented use of a car, for better or worse. On the plus side, sure, it’s great for impressing people and not getting wet in the rain or having to walk to your car, possibly with a bunch of heavy crap, but at the same time, when has it ever been okay to attempt to be “in control” of your car from potentially across a parking lot?

There’s plenty of cases where Smart Summon has worked just fine. And yes, people do stupid shit in parking lots every day. Tesla does specify that it’s a Beta release, which is fine for most software, but does it make sense when that software is driving a full-sized car in a public space?

The collisions that have been reported so far have all been property damage, either to the Tesla or to whatever it hit. I haven’t seen any reports of pedestrians either getting hit or nearly so. I suppose that’s the silver lining to this story: in the four days since the software started rolling out, nobody has been injured or killed.

It does raise questions about whether it’s fair for Tesla to use developer-centric terms like “beta” as cover for software that it is not fully confident is complete and safe — I do not think that’s okay. Tesla, in particular, has historically exaggerated the capabilities of its autonomous software while simultaneously tacking “beta” onto the end of several of its features. Plenty of people were upset with iCloud’s myriad problems in the beta releases of iOS 13. Those problems are solely relegated to the user’s own files, however; they are not a matter of public safety.