Futuristic Tesla summoning feature faces roadblocks

The new app for select Tesla owners allows them to command their cars to drive autonomously to their location

Tesla has unveiled a new "Smart Summon" feature for its cars that allows users to remotely 'summon' their car to their location but it has already run into problems, with the cars crashing into objects and other vehicles.

That's according to social media posts relating to Smart Summon, which show Teslas driving into a garage door, being struck by a reversing vehicle and more.

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The software update to the Tesla app was rolled out to select users on 26 September promising a seamless experience for those who want to have their car greet them wherever they are.

"With Smart Summon, customers who have purchased Full Self-Driving Capability or Enhanced Autopilot can enable their car to navigate a parking lot and come to them or their destination of choice, as long as their car is within their line of sight," said Tesla in the app update's release notes.

"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."

While there have been reported issues, there are many posts on social media heralding the futuristic feature, which involves constantly pressing a button within the app to summon the Tesla. Releasing the button will cause the slow-moving, autonomously controlled car to stop.

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But in the week since the app update was released, problems ave already started to arise. In one instance, an owner expected the car to detect oncoming cars at T-junctions and stop automatically, only to be disappointed.

"I took my finger off when I saw that it wasn't slowing down, but I'm not sure which kicked-in first," said the owner, alluding to the Tesla potentially detecting the oncoming vehicle on its own.

Conversely, one user described the feature as "incredible" in a video showing a Tesla navigating a fairly vacant car park and successfully avoiding obstacles on its path to the owner.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it "is aware of reports related to Tesla's Summon feature," in a statement given to Reuters. "We are in ongoing contact with the company and we continue to gather information."

Tesla did not reply to IT Pro's request for comment at the time of publication, but said in its release notes that "those using Smart Summon must remain responsible for the car and monitor it and its surroundings at all times".

Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter that there were more than 550,000 Smart Summon uses in the first few days of its release.

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