Tesla, we're tracking your Smart Summon parking lot scrapes, says safety watchdog

But Tesla doesn't need permission from US regulators to release a feature like Smart Summon.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says it is gathering information about parking-lot incidents involving Tesla vehicles in the driverless Smart Summon mode. 

Some Tesla owners have been blown away when testing the new Smart Summon feature in areas where there are no moving objects.

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The company unleashed the feature in its software version 10.0 update last week, allowing owners to use a smartphone to instruct the vehicle to come pick them up in a parking lot.  

But videos on Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms have been causing a stir this week as owners tested the feature in public parking lots. Multiple videos on social media have shown near misses, minor crashes and confusion when a Tesla senses moving people and vehicles. 

Tesla currently labels Smart Summon a beta feature. Its release notes say owners should only use it in private parking lots and driveways, but the company has marketed the feature more loosely, suggesting owners can use it in any parking lot. 

The NHTSA on Wednesday told Reuters that it is aware of reports of related to Tesla's Smart 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." 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk today boasted on Twitter that Smart Summon has been used over 550,000 times in the first few days of its release, saying it was "probably our most viral feature ever". He has not commented on videos demonstrating potential safety problems. 

As Bloomberg notes, Tesla and other car makers don't need permission from regulators to launch new systems on vehicles that comply with federal auto safety standards. So partially automated driving features are allowed. 

SEE: Tesla's 'biggest-ever' software update: V10 brings Smart Summon, Netflix, YouTube  

However, the NHTSA can demand a recall if it finds the system creates an unreasonable safety risk. 

Additionally, California's Department of Motor Vehicles has concluded that Summon isn't autonomous driving and thus isn't subject to its self-driving regulations. 

Smart Summon is exactly the feature Tesla needs right now. The company on Wednesday reported it delivered 97,000 cars in the third quarter, of which 79,600 were the new Model 3. 

Tesla has also acquired computer-vision startup DeepScale, CNBC reports. In a LinkedIn update, DeepScale CEO Forrest Iandola  said he has joined Tesla's Autopilot team this week.

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