The U.S. government’s highway safety agency is gathering information on a feature of new Tesla electric cars. The feature lets drivers summon their cars in parking lots. But the car-hailing has a few problems. . . .
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it’s aware of negative reports about Tesla’s “Smart Summon.” Officials are in contact with the company. “The agency will not hesitate to act if it finds evidence of a safety-related defect,” NHTSA says.
Last week, Tesla sent out an over-the-internet software update. The update allows some customers to allow their cars to navigate through a parking lot—with no one at the wheel. There are some limitations. For example, drivers can use the feature only if a driver can see the vehicle and the car is within 200 feet.
Soon after the update, videos and pictures surfaced on social media about problems. One owner says his car scraped the side of his garage while “Smart Summon” was working. Another car narrowly missed crashing into cross traffic. Still another driver says his car nearly hit a golf cart before he was able to stop it. One video shows a good Samaritan chasing down what he thinks is a runaway car—with the Tesla owner shouting, “It’s okay!” from afar. A promotional video on Tesla’s own website shows a driverless car going the wrong way in a parking lot.
Tesla’s website cautions that drivers who use “Smart Summon” are responsible for the car and must monitor it at all times.
As with most new technology, there are bumps and twists in the road. But since this feature involves automobiles in public spaces, some folks think Tesla should pump the brakes on “Smart Summon.”
What do you think about driverless cars moving through crowded parking lots?
(A Tesla vehicle charging at a Tesla Supercharger site in Charlotte, North Carolina. AP Photo/Chuck Burton)