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Tesla Smart Summon isn't for use in public places, America

Countless social media demonstrations are already showing us the dos and dont's of when and where to use Tesla's driverless summon feature.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
Tesla Smart Summon

Neat, but use it in good faith, people.

Vimeo screencap

There are no self-driving cars for sale today. However, in the past week, began to roll out another step toward them as companies pursue the goal of full autonomy.

It's called Smart Summon -- a remote control-like function that allows owners to use their smart phones to direct their vehicles to back out of parking spaces and navigate very short distances to come pick them up. Smart Summon is part of the company's V10 software update on its Model 3, Model S and Model X electric cars. 

But there's an important caveat to using this new system that a lot of people seem to be ignoring: Simply put, Smart Summon is NOT for use in public spaces. Tesla has clearly stated that's not what the darn thing is designed for.

Of course, as social media readily shows, Tesla owners are already attempting to push Smart Summon's intelligence and usage boundaries. These instances range from "Wow, close call" to "filing an insurance claim." There have been issues with parked cars, failing to determine where the pavement ends and the grass begins, and so on.

To be clear and fair, Tesla has underscored in its release that this function is not intended for activation in public spaces. I quote from the automaker's release notes: "Smart Summon is only intended for use in private parking lots and driveways." 

This next part is important, guys: "You are still responsible for your car and must monitor it and its surroundings at all times within your line of sight." Tesla goes on to explain that the system may not detect all obstacles. The company calls the release a beta within its V10 software update. The notes go on to say that quick-moving pedestrians, cyclists and other cars are no friend to Smart Summon right now. 

While one might argue that perhaps the system isn't ready for prime time, the release is explicit about what Tesla believes Smart Summon is good for right now. As shown below, it can work well under the right circumstances.

Yet, it's still a beta for a reason.

Features like Smart Summon are part of the allure of Tesla. Certainly, the tech is mighty advanced, and it's inherently cool to watch a car pick an owner up. We're not there yet, though. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: there are no self-driving cars for sale today. Tomorrow, there will still not be a single self-driving car for sale. Next year, save for any major breakthrough, there will not be a self-driving car on sale. The vast majority of people have no clue what the state of this sort of technology is, let alone how these new systems can be safely deployed.

But, when used properly, Smart Summon does seem to lay the groundwork for a more convenient future. Just remember that it's still in beta, and make sure to follow Tesla's directions, OK?

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