Tesla's long-awaited and long-delayed "Smart Summon" feature is finally released to the general public, the company announced Thursday.  "Customers who have acquired full self-driving ability or enhanced autopilot can enable their car to navigate the parking lot and reach them or their destination of choice as long as their car is within sight", Tesla said in a blog post announcing version 1
"Customers who have had early access to Smart Summon have told us that this adds both convenience to their journeys and gives them a unique moment of enjoyment," Tesla writes.
For safety reasons, customers must continually monitor the vehicle – holding down a button in the Tesla app – as it moves through the parking lot. Tesla urges customers to maintain visibility into the vehicle at all times.
Tesla started pushing the official release of Version 10 within the last 24 hours, but before the release, versions were available to members of Tesla's test program, the early access program for several weeks. The videos may give us some idea of how these features work – though we hope the final version works a little better with fewer errors.
Here is a weekly video featuring a Smart Summon pre-release that provides a nice overview of how the technology works (skip ahead to about 9:10):
The enhanced calling screen in the Tesla app shows a blue dot representing the location on the phone, and a red triangle showing the location of the car. The owner can press the "come to me" button to get the car directly to the location of the phone. Or the owner can drag the card around to reposition the crossed hair and instruct the car to go somewhere else. The feature can only be used in a limited range around the phone, outlined by a large blue circle on the card.
The function does more than just draw a straight line to its destination. The car tries to follow the driving lanes the way a person would drive. Sometimes it causes the car to take long, long routes, as you can see in the video above.
In pre-release versions, cars sometimes seem confused for no apparent reason. In the video above, for example, the car heads to the curb at the end of a number of parked cars, hesitates for a few seconds, then adjusts the course and continues to the destination.
As technology becomes widely available to Tesla Owners, we can expect to see many more videos posted in the coming days. It will be interesting to see if Tesla has been able to fix the issues seen in the pre-release versions.
The technology is intended for use in private parking. Ars has asked both Tesla and federal regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration whether it is legal to use public road technology, and we will update this story if we receive a response.
It is not clear who will be held liable if the vehicle causes damage while operating in Smart Summon mode. Tesla has designed the app to work only when the user holds a button while keeping track of the vehicle's progress. This can help the company claim that it should not be held liable in the event of a malfunction. But there is no guarantee that the courts will buy such an argument.
Smart Summon technology was the most noticeable feature in Tesla Version 10 software, but the update came with a number of other improvements. When the car is parked, Tesla owners will now be able to watch Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube videos or play the Cuphead video game. The car already has native Spotify support. You'll also be able to touch the "Feeling Lucky" button that navigates the car to any destination you choose, or the "Feeling Hungry" button that selects a restaurant nearby.