Almost immediately after it was released unto the world’s population of properly-equipped Teslas in September, Tesla’s Smart Summon feature, which allows a completely unpiloted car to drive to meet the owner via a smartphone app, people were reporting a lot of less-than-optimal results. Some were just annoying examples of a confused car holding up traffic, and some had potential to be dangerous. Well, it’s still happening, as this recent video of a Tesla driving the wrong way in a parking lot shows.
A pair of short videos were shot in Richmond, British Colombia, where the white Model 3 was attempting to, presumably, re-unite with its owner, somewhere in a shopping centre parking lot. The car appears confused, hesitant, and maybe just a little bit drunk as it creeps along, in the wrong lane where it could meet oncoming traffic, and stopping nervously right in the middle of the road before timorously proceeding. Here, watch:
…and this one:
Now, the car is going so slowly that I don’t think anyone was in any real danger as such, but this is also incredibly shitty driving, and were a human at the wheel people would be honking and yelling at the fool to get the hell out of the way, or perhaps learn to drive, fucko.
There’s lots going on here that suggests maybe Smart Summon really isn’t ready for prime time: the car appears to have entered the parking lot from the wrong side out of a busy intersection, which also makes one wonder where the car was parked when summoned—on the public road, or already inside the parking lot?
The car seems to have no regard or ability to read the huge markings on the pavement showing what lane is for what direction traffic, and manages to pick the wrong one.
If the parking lot were more busy, the confused robocar would have absolutely caused an annoying traffic tie-up, at the very least.
The basic Smart Summon technology is incredibly impressive, but it certainly doesn’t always work, not by any stretch. It really doesn’t seem ready to be deployed into public spaces like parking lots, even if they’re not technically “roads.” There’s still other cars there, driven by people who may not be interested in taking part in Elon’s big Beta Test.
Transport Canada doesn’t yet have any laws to regulate the use of autonomous vehicles, so doing this isn’t illegal, though I suspect that if you tried to pilot a two-ton remote control car from 200 feet away in a public parking lot with the same sort of results exhibited here, someone would find a law to get you to knock it off.
I reached out to Tesla to ask about the incident, and specifically if Smart Summon has any provision to read pavement markings. I’ll update as soon as I hear back.