Consumer Reports slammed Tesla’s automated parking system in a new report Wednesday, saying the feature operates less like the tame “pet” described by CEO Elon Musk — and more “like a drunken or distracted driver.”
“In tests at one lot and at the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, the vehicle drove in the middle of the traffic lane,” CR said in an Oct. 8 report. “It would wander left and right as it drove—erratically, like a drunken or distracted driver.”
The influential product testing company likened Smart Summon, which is currently under review by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to a “science experiment” — suggesting it is not ready for human consumption.
“This is a work in progress,” said Jake Fisher, CR’s senior director of auto testing. “What consumers are really getting is the chance to participate in a kind of science experiment.”
The feature, which Tesla rolled out to certain users last month as part of a larger software update, allows users to move their Tesla cars a short distance, say in a parking lot or a driveway, using their smartphones.
“Car will drive to your phone location & follow you like a pet if you hold down summon button on Tesla app,” Musk tweeted in touting the service last year.
But shortly after the rollout, Tesla drivers were posting pictures and videos of dents and near misses.
“Smart Summon just ran into my garage wall because of a unnecessary turn!” @khannavikas tweeted earlier this month with a photo of a dented car.
A video by another Twitter user shows a near-miss in a parking lot. “So, @elonmusk My first test of Smart Summon didn’t go so well,” the driver wrote alongside the hair-raising video.
What consumers are really getting is the chance to participate in a kind of science experiment.
CR blasted the service as “glitchy” and said customers shouldn’t be paying to “help fine-tune the technology for the future.” The service is only provided to drivers who have opted for the “full self-driving” package, which costs roughly $6,000.
Tesla didn’t return a request for comment.
Tesla has also come under scrutiny for fatal crashes linked to its controversial “Autopilot” system, which lets Tesla cars move without a driver’s hands on the wheel.
The function was activated, for example, when a semi-truck pulled out in front of Jeremy Banner in March on a Palm Beach County, Florida, highway, according to the NHTSA. The vehicle had been in autopilot mode for 10 seconds and didn’t slow down in the moments leading up to the crash. Banner’s hands never touched the wheel, the agency said.
Tesla has argued that its autopilot function is still safer than cars being driven “without assistance.”
In October 2018, the NHTSA also sent Musk a cease-and-desist letter asking him to stop saying Teslas are the safest cars in the world, and arguing that Tesla made “a number of misleading statements” on its company blog about the safety of its vehicles, including that the NHTSA’s tests of the Model 3 sedan showed that “it has the lowest probability of injury of all cars the safety agency has ever tested.”
Tesla has contested the NHTSA’s findings, saying its Model 3 had the lowest risk of occupant injury of any vehicle in a US government test.
The company’s stock rose 2.3 percent in midday, trading to $245.50 a share.