Stuff bouncing and rolling in front of the car was not detected with precision and it could prove fatal in real-world conditions

Tesla’s Smart Summon feature has become the Guinea Pig for a lot of YouTubers out there, as people can’t stop testing this technology under different circumstances and situations. Search it up online and you’ll see a lot more negative reviews than positive ones.

Although it’s a good technology, Tesla needs to fine-tune it to make it foolproof. In the meanwhile, a Model 3 owner, Kevin Rooke, decided to check this feature out by testing it on moving obstacles. He uses many props like a shopping cart, a soccer ball, and many things that can “roll” in front of the car. Do you think the Smart Summon can detect them all?

Smart Summon Needs A Lot Of Improvement

The Smart Summon is the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons. The feature has drawn a lot of flak as a lot of owners have reported bugs in the system.

Within a month of rolling the feature out in September 2019, Tesla said that it's been used over a million times.

Basically, Smart Summon is a feature wherein you summon your Tesla from a distance of up to 200 feet. The cars equipped with this feature will navigate through all obstacles and come to the owner; at least that’s what they are supposed to do. A lot of videos show that cars equipped with this feature have either smashed themselves into a pillar while squeezing out of a tight spot, or didn’t stop when other vehicles were passing by. However, this hasn’t been tested with moving obstacles that we encounter on a daily basis.

Video: Tesla's Smart Summon Feature Is Good For Stationary Objects, But Not So Much For Moving Obstacles
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This is Kevin Rooke’s second video with the Smart Summon. In the first video, his Model 3 was able to detect small cones that were placed on the tarmac. This time, he decided to take it up a notch and created a simulated environment in a parking lot with many rolling objects: “I went back for another round of testing, I brought a bunch more objects with me, but this time, I had a twist. I wanted to see how a Tesla might react when the objects presented in front of it, all these obstacles, were moving.”

Larger Moving Objects Were Spotted With Ease

Video: Tesla's Smart Summon Feature Is Good For Stationary Objects, But Not So Much For Moving Obstacles
- image 876817

In the first test, he loaded a shopping cart on a skateboard and let it loose in front of the Tesla Model 3 from its left-hand side.

The car braked in the nick of time and avoided hitting the cart.

Rooke repeated the test just to be sure and the result was the same. In the next test, he tied a bunch of balloons to a rope and pulled it in front of the Model 3. The balloons were swirling around because of the wind, but the car stopped – much earlier this time – despite the balloons being almost dragged on the road.

Tesla Couldn’t Clear All The Tests Successfully

Video: Tesla's Smart Summon Feature Is Good For Stationary Objects, But Not So Much For Moving Obstacles
- image 876818

Impressed with the outcome, Rooke now decided to bounce a basketball in front of the car. This would test the car’s sensing capabilities because the bouncing ball would appear in front of the sensors for maybe a fraction of a second.

As expected, the Model 3 did not detect it and kept moving without even slowing down.

Kevin repeated the test, and this time, the car stopped at the very second the ball hit the bumper. The next test is where the car failed to respond and proved all its critics right. Rooke rolled the same basketball along on the tarmac and the Model 3 failed to detect the ball. It ran over it and crushed the ball quite badly.

This is worse than it looks because, in real-life conditions, it could be an animal like a dog or a cat, or even worse, a toddler.
Video: Tesla's Smart Summon Feature Is Good For Stationary Objects, But Not So Much For Moving Obstacles
- image 876816

Kevin then brings a soccer ball for the next test. The ball wasn’t pumped, so it wouldn’t bounce like the basketball, but would still be in the vision of the sensors. The test was repeated twice and the Model 3 did not stop even once. Next in line was a mini basketball which Kevin decided to throw onto the car. This time, the ball bounced on the Model 3’s hood, but it continued to drive to the target. He had some other smaller objects with him as well, like golf balls and baseballs, but he didn’t test them out since the car didn’t respond to fairly bigger objects.

Final Thoughts

Video: Tesla's Smart Summon Feature Is Good For Stationary Objects, But Not So Much For Moving Obstacles
- image 876819
In conclusion, Smart Summon is able to detect smaller objects when stationary, but not when they are moving.

Although this is quite scary because the moving “objects” could be living creatures, Musk recently announced that the Cybertruck will be its last product in the near future and that the company will focus on technology instead. I’m certain that Tesla will work on making this technology better, but will it ever become a “perfect” feature? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Sidd Dhimaan
Associate Editor and Truck Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. He is currently our pickup truck expert and focuses his attention on heavy-duty and off-road vehicles.  Read More
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