Tesla in Hot Water Over Public Safety Again; This Time Over The “Smart Summon” Feature That Allows Car to Pick Up Owners Without Anyone Behind the Wheel
After a number of high profile auto accidents that have cost some drivers and passengers their lives, Tesla appears to continue to put vehicles on the road that pose a serious injury risk to the public. This time, it’s the company’s V.10 software upgrade – the “Smart Summon” feature – which allows drivers to ‘call’ their car to come pick them up without an actual driver behind the wheel that’s causing the uproar. The feature was not released until September 26 as part of the Enhanced Autopilot and Self-Driving Capability options, and, already, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported several accidents and near-accidents involving the feature, even though it was designed to only be used in parking lots when the owner can keep an eye on their vehicle as they take advantage of the feature.
According to company CEO Elon Musk, more than 550,000 people have already used Smart Summon. Meanwhile, Tesla is also still being investigated for its Autopilot features, which were previously involved in several fatal crashes.
Troubling Flaws & Concerns
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has already indicated that it is concerned about how the feature will be used, especially since human supervision isn’t necessary to use it. The Institute adds that while Tesla indicates that the feature should only be used when owners can see their vehicle the entire time while using it, at the same time, it is arguably negligent to also provide those owners with the ability to be remotely located from the vehicle while it is moving. According to videos posted, some of the vehicles have struck walls and been struck by other cars that are backing up while owners are using the feature.
No Regulatory Framework
There also appears to be no regulatory framework in place that allows for states to block or regulate the use of the feature: Specifically, a number of states have released statements indicating that, because the feature is not “advanced” enough to technically be considered “autonomous,” it isn’t governed by AV regulations and, as a result, Tesla does not need to apply for a permit to offer the feature in these states. In other words, it is simply considered a part of the existing Autopilot feature.
What Other Problems Are On the Horizon?
According to some experts, the problems have only begun when it comes to the Smart Summon feature because driving speed could pose a serious issue. While the vehicle sensors only being able to see a certain distance away in parking lots with slow speeds might be OK, at faster speeds, the car may not be able to see and react to sudden obstacles, such as a person, which could turn into a matter of life or death.
Contact Our Houston, Texas Auto Accident Attorneys to Find Out More
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in an accident with a Tesla vehicle here in Texas, contact our experienced Houston auto accident attorneys at The West Law Office today to find out how we can help.