You Can Now 'Summon' The Tesla Model S Like An Obedient Pet

With a new software update by Tesla Motors, the Model S will now come calling when you “summon” it with the vehicle’s fob.
January 9, 2016, 9:20pm
Image: Tesla Motors

If your time is too valuable to pull in and out of the garage, Tesla Motors has you covered. The latest version of the software that runs the company's upscale vehicles can park the Model S without a human on board—or even come calling when the user "summons" the vehicle using the car's wireless key fob.

A Tesla owner named James Majerus, who already received the update, posted a video of his Model S parking itself and coming when he summoned it—both maneuvers that the vehicle appears to execute with agonizing caution. The update, which is technically v7.1 of the software, can also interact with a HomeLink control system to open and close a garage door blocking its path, which other users have demonstrated in videos.

In certain corners of the tech sector, there's intense interest in developing a fully autonomous vehicle: Google has been testing a self-driving fleet since 2012, and traditional automakers like BMW and Audi have since jumped on board as well.

There are still substantial legal and ethical obstacles before that type of technology could join the consumer market—should a self-driving vehicle's AI try to save a passenger, for example, by running over a pedestrian?—but today's Tesla update could be read as yet another incremental step toward that goal.

In fact, the 7.1 update also dealt with fallout from a previous foray into self-driving technology: it introduced new constraints on the company's already-released Autosteer feature, which keeps the car in a lane as long as a human driver is in the driver's seat, ready to take over. Since Autosteer was introduced, Tesla founder Elon Musk expressed concern over reports of users "doing crazy things with it."

Consequently, the latest update scales back Autosteer's capabilities. Autosteer now limits the vehicle's speed to five miles per hour over the speed limit, and only works on roads without a center divider.