Tesla Updates Summon Feature Shortly After Autonomous Crash of Model S

But is the fix good enough?


Tesla pushed a new over-the-air update of its autonomous Summon feature today. The update comes a week after a Utah man claims Summon self-crashed his Tesla Model S into a truck, drawing questions about how ready Tesla’s autonomous features really are.

The update, says redditor Mike Ash in r/TeslaMotors, makes the user confirm the direction of travel on the touchscreen inside the car rather than from the touch of a button.

“When activating Summon from the parking stalk, choose the direction of travel on the touchscreen before exiting the car,” the update screen reads. Autopark will then start after the driver exits the car.

The short time between Tesla owner Jared Overton’s crash in Utah and the update suggest that the two are related. Electrek reports, however, that a Tesla spokesperson wouldn’t confirm a connection, instead stating: “Tesla is always making improvements to features in our vehicles.”

The update screen for Tesla Summon.

Mike Ash/imgur

Overton claimed that the Summon feature started on its own and slammed his car into a trailer in front of it while he was in the grocery store. Tesla disputed his claim after taking a look at the car’s logs, saying that Summon was on and Overton should have been watching his car. In other words, Tesla placed all blame on the driver.

Tesla’s logs on Overton’s Model S showed that Summon was activated after his car was parked. That much was shown on the touchscreen in the car, but Overton wasn’t required to do anything about it. The new update forces drivers to address Summon on the touchscreen to choose the direction, or, as Overton would have been able to do had he been aware that his car was in motion, cancel the Autopark entirely.

It’s probably true that, had it been in place at the time, this new Summon feature could have prevented Overton’s accident, but it still doesn’t address the problem the Model S had with detecting a trailer dead ahead. Autonomous cars shouldn’t crash into their surroundings — period.

But Tesla moves forward, chipping away at perfecting autonomous features with the help of its base of owners that act like test drivers.