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Tesla Model S’ new ‘Summon’ feature lets drivers park and retrieve their cars with no one inside

Updated Jan 9th, 2016 9:41PM EST
Tesla Model S Software Update
Image: Green Car Reports

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Tesla earlier today began pushing out version 7.1 of its software to Model S and Model X owners and, suffice it to say, it’s a doozy of a software update.

While we’ll get to the full changelog shortly, we first wanted to highlight a feature called Summon which enables users to park their cars without having to be inside it. Conversely, it also lets Tesla owners summon their cars that already happen to be parked.

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A video of this feature in action can be seen below. You might consider this akin to autostart, albeit on steroids.

The release notes for Summon, which is in Beta, indicates that the feature works up to a distance of 39 feet, meaning that a “Model S will move up to 39 feet or until the sensors detect an obstacle, at which point parking is considered complete and Autopark will shift the car to Park.”

Naturally, Tesla advises that the Summon feature should only be used on flat surfaces and on private property.

Other improvements found in the 7.1 software update include Autosteer improvements to help keep Tesla vehicles in their current lane when passing highway exits and even in situations when lane markings are faded.

One notable change to Tesla’s Autopilot software is that it’s more safety-oriented, which is to say that Autosteer is now “restricted on residential roads and roads without a center divider.” This change of course stems from Tesla Model S owners pushing their Autopilot software to the limit and uploading harrowing videos of their experiments to YouTube.

As a result, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the following during a November conference call: “There’s been some fairly crazy videos on YouTube… this is not good. And we will be putting some additional constraints on when autopilot can be activated to minimize the possibility of people doing crazy things with it.”

Furthermore, the software update now allows Tesla vehicles to park itself into parking spots “that are perpendicular to the curb.” Other enhancements include enhanced autopilot visualization so that the car’s instrument panel can digitally depict multiple vehicles around the front of the car, along with the ability to indicate the type of vehicle, whether it be a car, truck or motorcycle.

Other improvements include improved collision detection, automatic speed adjustments if you’re on cruise control and exiting a highway, the ability to have your garage door open and close automatically when you leave and after you arrive, more granular control over the unlocking system, auto-brightness enhancements, more detailed information about Supercharger availability, improved trip planning, and more.

The full release notes to the software update can be viewed here courtesy of Tesla Motors Club.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.