Tesla’s Smart Summon feature is already causing chaos

Is Smart Summon ready for prime time?

Tesla’s Smart Summon feature is already causing chaos in parking lots. Amid reports of crashes, near-misses and software glitches, there are growing calls for Tesla to put the brakes on a newly-unveiled self-driving feature called Enhanced Summon.

Honestly, this feels like a tiny glimpse of the chaotic future of autonomous cars. It's an example of the complications from Tesla’s willingness to beta test features using customers.

Tesla owners who purchased the Full Self-Driving option on their car received it as part of the version 10 software update that went out last week. Using just a smartphone, you can “summon” your car to you from a maximum distance of 200 feet, as long as the car is within your line of sight.

Sure, the operator is always in control and it can be stopped on a dime just by letting go of the button, but
that tech is not yet road ready.

With downward auto sales, car companies are introducing more and more futuristic-seeming functions in their production vehicles. This includes advanced driver assist systems, like Tesla’s Autopilot and GM’s Super Cruise, and other features that take advantage of the suite of cameras and sensors that come embedded in practically every modern car today. Tesla is obviously ahead of the pack. Their competitors are rushing to keep up.

The result will be a messy batch of “smart” and “dumb” cars interacting with each other in ways that are both hilarious and potentially dangerous — especially when the smart cars aren’t as smart as advertised. Either way, these interactions are tailor-made to go viral.

The California DMV said that, because the new summon feature does not represent a fully self-driving car, Tesla did not need nor receive any special permission to implement it.

These are incredibly hard problems to solve. But when considering all of the achievements of Tesla
so far, why not give them the benefit of the doubt.