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Tesla’s new Smart Summon feature gets a scathing review from Consumer Reports

Published Oct 9th, 2019 6:04PM EDT
Tesla Smart Summon
Image: TierneyMJ/Shutterstock

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Per usual, Tesla recently introduced a brand new feature and Consumer Reports already has a strong opinion about it. Just last month, Tesla rolled out Software Version 10.0, an update which the company boasts is the biggest software update they’ve ever done. Amidst a sea of enhancements, the most intriguing update is a feature dubbed Smart Summon.

The Smart Summon feature, as the name somewhat implies, enables users to beckon their car and have it drive itself to your location. It’s essentially designed for private driveways and parking lots.

“It’s the perfect feature to use if you have an overflowing shopping cart, are dealing with a fussy child, or simply don’t want to walk to your car through the rain,” Tesla explains. “Customers who have had early access to Smart Summon have told us that it adds both convenience to their trips and provides them with a unique moment of delight when their car picks them up to begin their journey.”

As we covered previously, there have already been some mishaps — including an accident — with the Smart Summon feature, which is why Consumer Reports’ negative review of it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

CR’s testing found that the Smart Summon feature works adequately well in simple scenarios insofar that it can adeptly maneuver around stationary objects and ably detect pedestrians. More complicated environments, however, gave the feature some problems.

But we found that the system works only intermittently, depending on the car’s reading of the surroundings. The system is designed to work only in private parking lots, but sometimes it seemed confused about where it was. In one case, the system worked in one section of a private lot, but in another part of the lot it mistakenly detected that it was on a public road and shut itself down. At various times, our Model 3 would suddenly stop for no obvious reason.

When it did work, the Model 3 appeared to move cautiously, which could be a positive from a safety perspective. But it also meant the vehicle took a long time to reach its driver. The Model 3 also didn’t always stay on its side of the lane in the parking lots.

In something that seems to be something of a pattern for Tesla, it appears that the company rolled out a new and arguably futuristic technology that, when push comes to shove, still needs a lot of refinement before it’s ready for the mainstream.

For what it’s worth, Tesla CEO Elon Musk about two weeks ago said that the feature is still improving.

On a more positive bent, Tesla last quarter did manage to deliver a record number of vehicles, around 97,000 to be exact. Per Tesla, 79,600 of those vehicles were the Model 3.

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.