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October 8, 2019

Tesla ‘smart summon’ accident liability stays with drivers

In its latest and largest ever OTA software update, Tesla's new 'smart summon' feature which allows limited driverless operation is reportedly resulting in car park accidents that will be the responsibility of the driver, rather than Tesla, reports say.

By Sam Duke

In its latest and largest ever OTA software update, Tesla’s new ‘smart summon’ feature which allows limited driverless operation is reportedly resulting in car park accidents that will be the responsibility of the driver, rather than Tesla, reports say.

According to a Reuters report, driver liability in accidents caused by vehicles in driverless mode could be challenged in the US courts if numbers of accidents mount up. Social media postings point to some accidents arising in the US as vehicles negotiate car parks while operating under the feature.

Under Tesla’s ‘smart summon’ feature if a Tesla car is within 200 feet and in the driver’s line of sight, the driver can use a phone app to summon the vehicle in a parking lot.

Reuters reported that US regulators at the NHTSA are looking into parking lot crashes involving Tesla cars driving themselves to their owners in the driverless mode.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has tweeted that there were more than 550,000 Smart Summon uses in the first few days.

Automated driving features in cars raise the question of whether the owner or the auto manufacturer is at fault when accidents occur, particularly when the owner is advised that they are responsible but the car is running in automated mode. Insurance industry experts are suggesting that a class action could be started if numbers of incidents rise.

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Insurance analysts point out that for future fully-automated cars, liability for accidents will shift to the original manufacturer. However, systems such as Smart Summon are part-time and operate in selected circumstances.

“You are still responsible for your car and must monitor it and its surroundings at all times and be within your line of sight because it may not detect all obstacles,” Tesla said in instructions for the new feature.

See also: Tesla rolls out biggest ever software update

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