Oct 2, 2019

Tesla's mixed messages on "Smart Summon" confuse the public

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Social media posts have been popping up in recent days of Tesla owners trying out their car's new "Smart Summon" feature.

Why it matters: As The Verge and others reported, Smart Summon "is already causing chaos in parking lots across America," suggesting the technology isn't ready or people are misusing it.

Details: Smart Summon was released last week as part of Tesla's V10 software update on its Model 3, S and X electric cars.

  • It's another incremental step toward self-driving cars.

How it works: the remote control-like function allows owners to use their smart phone to direct their vehicle to back out of a parking space and navigate up to 200 feet to pick them up.

  • In the announcement, Tesla said the feature could be used as long as the car is within the driver's line of sight.
  • "It's the perfect feature to use if you have an overflowing shopping cart, are dealing with a fussy child, or simply don't want to walk to your car through the rain."

Yes, but: In the V10 release notes, Tesla emphasized that the technology is only intended for use in private parking lots and driveways.

  • "You are still responsible for your car and must monitor it and its surroundings at all times and be within your line of sight because it may not detect all obstacles. Be especially careful around quick moving people, bicycles and cars."

My thought bubble: Tesla is beta-testing features on customers and its statements seem to be encouraging them to use Smart Summon in ways it wasn't intended. Meanwhile, its actions are shaping the public's perception of self-driving cars.

Go deeper: Tesla's next moment under the microscope

Go deeper

Tesla's new self-driving software under scrutiny

Tesla Model 3. Photo: Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

U.S. safety regulators are looking into crashes and near-misses involving Tesla's new Smart Summon parking feature, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: If the software is found to be unsafe, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could order a recall.

Go deeperArrowOct 4, 2019

Tesla is beta testing its Autopilot software using real customers

The inside of a Tesla. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Tesla is taking a calculated risk by using real customers as beta testers for its still-developing Autopilot software, Bloomberg Businessweek's Zachary Mider writes in this week's cover story.

Why it matters: As new technologies roll out on roads, there is debate over whether it's best to wait for self-driving technology to be perfected, or to put incomplete software on the road where it can save lives as it's improved.

Go deeperArrowOct 10, 2019

Tesla deliveries fall short of expectations despite record quarter

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Tesla delivered a record 97,000 vehicles last quarter but nonetheless fell short of some analysts' expectations for the July–September stretch.

Why it matters: The electric automaker's stock tumbled roughly 6% in after-hours trading following Wednesday's announcement, and is currently down around 5%.

Go deeperArrowOct 3, 2019