What is Tesla Smart Summon?

Beverly Braga | Sep 28, 2020

Tesla Smart Summon is part of the Full Self-Driving Capability (FSD) version of Tesla Autopilot, the electric vehicle maker’s advanced driving assistance system. However, the notable thing about Smart Summon is that the driver needn’t be in the vehicle to activate and control the feature. Also, Tesla Smart Summon is the updated version of the original Tesla Summon technology.

Tesla Smart Summon

Tesla introduced Summon in early 2016 as part of the Autopilot Version 7.1 software update. Initially available on the Model S and Model X, Tesla offered Summon for the Model 3 when it went into production a year later, as part of Autopilot FSD.

Tesla Summon offers owners added convenience and safety when parking or retrieving their vehicles. For example, suppose the car is parked in a narrow space, whether in a public lot or home garage. In that case, owners can utilize the Summon feature to beckon their Tesla to them, saving them from entering or exiting the vehicle in such a constricted area. Genesis and Hyundai offer a similar technology called Remote Smart Parking Assist.

The process of activating the feature is relatively easy. With the Tesla in park and turned off, hold down on the center button on the key fob for three seconds until the hazard lights activate and change from flickering to steady. Then release the button. The vehicle has turned back on in Summon mode. The front trunk (“frunk”) and trunk buttons serve as directional controls: the former to move the vehicle forward, the latter for reverse. To cancel Summon, simply press down on the center button again. You can manage this process via the Tesla app as well.

Tesla also integrates HomeLink with Summon, allowing the system to operate the garage door, opening and closing upon entering and exiting. The vehicle will not drive itself indefinitely, though, as summoning is limited to a length of 39 feet, which is more than enough for the average driveway.

In September 2019, as part of an over-the-air update dubbed Autopilot Software Version 10.0, Tesla updated Summon to Smart Summon. Again, only available for vehicles equipped with Autopilot FSD, Smart Summon use extends beyond a driveway or parking spot to navigate through more complex situations like the entirety of a parking lot.

For even more convenience, with Smart Summon, vehicles can meet their owners at, say, a storefront entrance should they have too many bags or too heavy an item to carry to their car. Or should inclement weather be in the forecast, Smart Summon spares owners and passengers from getting caught in the rain, sleet, or snow. As with Summon, Smart Summon activation remains straightforward but requires the most updated version of the Tesla app for use. Because Smart Summon has more freedom in terms of vehicle steering, controls have changed to more than just directional buttons.

In the app, select Summon and then the Smart Summon icon. Then simply press and hold down on the “Come to Me” button. Or, if you’d like the vehicle to go elsewhere, set a target destination of choice and press the “Go to Target” button. As a safety measure, the user must continually push the command button. Once released, the Smart Summon will deactivate, and the vehicle will stop.

Smart Summon is imperfect, and there are limitations. For example, Smart Summon can sense and avoid certain stationary objects, like other cars, and stop for pedestrians, but the system cannot detect all traffic or even curbs. And the owner is still responsible for directing the vehicle and maintaining a line of sight to the car. Additionally, Tesla’s disclaimer states that “Smart Summon is only intended for use in private parking lots and driveways.” So, no showing off at the neighborhood barbeque by calling over your driverless vehicle from down the street.

Smart Summon will only work within 200 feet of the owner’s smartphone to further encourage its safe use, and the vehicle will not accelerate to more than six mph. Of course, there is a litany of YouTube videos showcasing both the greatness and flaws of Tesla’s summoning feature. But, as with any new technology, Smart Summon will undoubtedly implement more safety parameters and become, well, smarter with every update.

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