Federal Safety Regulators Say They're Looking Into Reports of Tesla Smart Summon Crashes

Photo: Sean Gallup (Getty Images)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) isn’t so thrilled with Tesla’s rollout of a feature that automatically summons the company’s vehicles in parking lots, telling Reuters they are investigating resulting crashes.

The smart summon feature, launched last week as part of Tesla’s optional $6,000 “Full Self Driving” package, allow a user to use an app to summon their vehicle at a distance of up to 200 feet and “maneuver around or stop for objects and notify you when detected.” The company said it told customers that it’s only to be used in private parking lots and driveways and only under the close supervision of the user, but people are idiots. The Drive reported last week that several videos of Tesla owners using the feature in public parking lots—you know, the ones that tend to be rife with other cars driving around—showed near misses or actual collisions.

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The NHTSA told Reuters in a statement that 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.” The company didn’t respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

The NHTSA also directed the public to report potential issues with the vehicles using its vehicle safety complaint page, according to CNBC.

(Perhaps Tesla should not have described the feature as “perfect” for users to have their car “navigate a parking lot and come to them or their destination of choice, as long as their car is within their line of sight,” especially if they have an “overflowing shopping cart, are dealing with a fussy child, or simply don’t want to walk to your car through the rain.”)

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Reuters described some of the incidents:

The poster, Dallas-based solutions architect Roddie Hasan, commented that his “first test of Smart Summon didn’t go so well.”

“..A car pulled in from the road and around the corner into the lot, and I expected the Tesla to ‘see’ it and stop, however I had to take my finger off the (app) button when I saw that my Tesla wasn’t slowing down,” Hasan told Reuters.

Another Twitter user, Mark Solomon, also posted a video that showed his car was not able to park itself properly using the feature.

“Not sure what the problem was but I think an older map of the parking lot was being used,” he said.

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Musk has previously described parking lots as a “remarkably hard problem” to solve, which tracks.

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Given Smart Summon hasn’t been out that long and Tesla is planning on rolling out more self-driving functions to its cars over time, the relatively low-stakes incidents reported so far are probably a sign of things to come. As CNBC noted, two prior fatal crashes involving Tesla Autopilot features remain under investigation by the NHTSA and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

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Tom McKay

"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post