Tesla in Trouble: Smart Summon Causes Accidents?


Oct. 4 2019, Updated 12:16 p.m. ET

Tesla (TSLA) could get into trouble with its self-driving feature, Smart Summon. According to the Reuters report, NHTSA (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration) is investigating Tesla’s Smart Summon. The new feature has likely caused minor accidents.

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Tesla’s Smart Summon feature

Smart Summon was a part of Tesla’s most significant software update, Software Version 10.0. The update was released at the end of September. If you own a Tesla car with Full Self-Driving Capability or Enhanced Autopilot, Smart Summon allows you to call the vehicle to you or any destination in the parking lot. The company said if you have a heavy shopping cart, finicky children, it’s raining, or you don’t want to walk, this feature can be helpful.

In the press release, Tesla said that Smart Summon “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.” It added that “Those using Smart Summon must remain responsible for the car and monitor it and its surroundings at all times.”

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Reported incidents with Smart Summon

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted, “Over 550,000 Tesla Smart Summon uses in first few days!” However, Tesla’s Smart Summon feature has reportedly caused minor accidents, as per its users. After its release, users have reported several incidents on social media sites.

As per the tweets compiled by a Fox News report, one of the car owners said, “Enhanced summon isn’t safe or production ready. Tried in my empty drive way. Car went forward and ran into the side of garage.” Another owner said, “So day 1 with V10 Smart Summon was working beautifully. But someone didn’t notice my M3 and made a front bumper damage. We will claim our insurances but who’s fault do you guys think it’ll be?” Plus, another one said, “Tesla Smart Summon still can’t tell the difference between road and grass. That seems problematic.”

NHTSA said it “is aware of reports related to Tesla’s 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’s self-driving cars ambition

Tesla is working fiercely towards the development of its self-driving car. However, such incidents could hurt the company’s efforts in that direction. In its bid to fast track its self-driving efforts, Tesla bought DeepScale, a computer vision firm. DeepScale will help Tesla in the research and development of the self-driving car. Tesla plans to launch its robotaxis in 2020. Of course, this is subject to requisite approvals.

Also, the company plans to keep cars’ maintenance costs minimal. Tesla is competing with the new entrant Taycan in this space. To learn more, read The Tesla-Porsche Battle Is Heating Up.

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Peers working hard in self-driving car development

Besides Tesla, most other automakers are investing heavily in autonomous car space. This is because they see self-driving cars as the future of the industry. Ford Motor (F) has invested in Argo AI to boost its self-driving capabilities. The company plans to launch its self-driving cars in Austin in 2021. General Motors (GM) with GM Cruise wanted to launch its self-driving vehicle this year. However, the company delayed it due to more testing requirements.

Further, Alphabet (GOOGL) (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL) are not far behind in the competition from Tesla. Google’s Waymo has already launched its self-driving taxis, on a pilot basis, in Phoenix City and Silicon Valley. However, Morgan Stanley has cut its valuation on Waymo by 40% due to a slower path to commercialization.

Also, Apple is quietly progressing with its self-driving ambition. The company recently bought Drive.ai, a self-driving tech startup. Recently, the Apple car was seen testing its sensor technology. To learn more, read Apple’s Self-Driving Car Spotted in Cupertino.

NVDA and QCOM join the self-driving race with Tesla

Moreover, technology providers like NVIDIA (NVDA) and Qualcomm (QCOM) are not far behind in the race with Tesla. While Ford uses Qualcomm chipset in its autonomous technology, Toyota uses NVIDIA software on various self-driving technologies. To learn more, read Hyundai-Aptiv Collab Heats Up Self-Driving Market.


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