After an accident involving Tesla’s Summon function led to a dispute between Tesla and a Model S owner, the company is updating the feature.
Summon allows Model S and Model X owners to have their cars park autonomously or drive autonomously towards them (at one mph for up to 33 feet). After a Utah man’s Model S was summoned into the back of a trailer, the owner and the company engaged in a disagreement over whether the car’s Summon system failed or if the driver had deliberately engaged it. Regardless of why the car was Summoned for a date with a trailer, Tesla is taking steps to prevent such incidents.
The biggest change is that users will now have to confirm the direction of travel on the car’s touchscreen before exiting the vehicle. Requiring this extra confirmation step should give users a chance to double-check for obstacles.
Previously, the system worked under a dead-man’s switch system, meaning that when a user released the button on the key fob or smartphone app, the vehicle would stop. That feature could be disabled apparently, as the same Reddit user who alerted the world to this update noted that the previous system used the dead-man switch by default – the Utah man could have disabled it by pressing a button twice. In that case, he’d have to press another button to stop the car.
Tesla does have sensors that are meant to stop a Summoned vehicle to avoid accidents, but in the Utah incident, it appears the trailer was too high off the ground to be detected.
Tesla hasn’t commented on the update as of this writing.