Tesla can self-park now, but can be summoned to self-drive coast-to-coast in 2 years

Tesla Model S

The Tesla Model S being put through its paces by Consumer Reports.

Credit: Consumer Reports

Tesla can be 'summoned' so it self-drives to the owner at the curb; Elon Musk said the Tesla can be summoned across country in a few years.

It must feel like Christmas morning to Tesla owners every time new software is deployed as an over-the-air (OTA) update. With the newest update, owners were gifted with a beta version of Summon, a self-driving step beyond remote start since an owner can “summon” the car to come to them. Tesla firmware 7.1 release notes put that Summon distance at 39 feet right now, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that in a few years, owners will be able to “summon” their car from one coast to have it come pick them up on another.

Tesla Summon feature to work coast to coast in a few years Elon Musk

“If you’re in New York and your car is in Los Angeles, you can summon your car to you from your phone and tell the car to find you,” Musk told reporters. “It’ll automatically charge itself along the journey. I might be slightly optimistic about that, but not significantly optimistic.”

“The car currently has sensors to achieve that cross-country goal,” Musk said. “But you’d need more hardware and software, you’d need more cameras, more radars, redundant electronics, redundant power buses and that sort of thing.”

Autopilot “is better than a human in highway driving, or at least it will be soon with machine learning.” Musk added, “Right now, the driver is Plan B. If something goes wrong with the electronics, it falls to the driver. In the car [driving without a human behind the wheel], it’ll need to fall to another set of sensors in the car.”

When Tesla Motors announced the ability to summon your Tesla from your phone, the company wrote:

Using Summon, once you arrive home and exit Model S or Model X, you can prompt it to do the rest: open your garage door, enter your garage, park itself, and shut down. In the morning, you wake up, walk out the front door, and summon your car. It will open the garage door and come to greet you. More broadly, Summon also eliminates the burden of having to squeeze in and out of tight parking spots. During this Beta stage of Summon, we would like customers to become familiar with it on private property. Eventually, your Tesla will be able to drive anywhere across the country to meet you, charging itself along the way. It will sync with your calendar to know exactly when to arrive.

Summon and unsummon Tesla Elon Musk

According to version 7.1 release notes, the beta Summon feature is to be used only on flat driveways and on private property. Since Model S may not detect some obstacles, such as bikes or objects hanging from the ceiling, owners are advised to monitor the process and be prepared to stop the car via their key fob. Summon is not enabled by default, but it can be enabled via the settings. If the Tesla is parked inside a garage, the owners need to enable Auto HomeLink so the car can control – auto-open and auto-close – the garage door.

Below is video of a Tesla pulling out and into a garage via the Autopark Summon feature as well as automatically opening and closing the garage door.

The next video shows off the Tesla Summon settings as well as reverse Autopark.

Regarding how a Tesla will automatically charge itself when responding to a cross-country “summons,” the company is moving forward with the robotic snake-like charger prototype that it showed off in August.

The device has been called “creepy,” so Musk said Tesla will try to tone down the creepy factor, even though it’s “sort of fascinating in its creepiness.”

Other photos of firmware 7.1 posted on Tesla Motors Club show the Model S can now pull off perpendicular parking and as well as self-park parallel to the curb. The OTA update brought other changes to Tesla’s semi-autonomous mode, such as restrictions to Autopilot’s Autosteer function; when on residential roads and roads without a center divider, the Tesla will be limited to the speed limit posted plus 5 mph. Back in November, after seeing videos of Tesla owners doing “crazy” stunts when on Autopilot, Musk warned that changes would be made; he called the new restriction “reasonable” for safety.

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