Tesla Smart Summon Is Deemed Safe Enough & Came Just In Time

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Some argue that Tesla Smart Summon should not be released because it is “beta” software. That is not a strong argument. According to Lifewire.com:

Beta refers to the phase in software development between the alpha phase and the release candidate phase. Beta software is generally considered “complete” by the developer but still not ready for general use due to a lack of testing “in the wild.”

Some software like Gmail and Google Maps were in beta for many years while used by hundreds of millions of people. Calling a software product beta software is a way to lower expectations and make users more careful in using it. Beta software also has the promise of an improved version in the future.

As with all new options on automobiles, the only real question is, what are the consequences for safety? All new functions have gone through considerable improvements after their initial release to the public. The notion that new functionality should be fully mature and debugged before it is released to public is not realistic. Sometimes there is a mistake, error in judgement, unexpected technical glitch, or unknown element. In those circumstances, a recall is the normal procedure to correct it. Judging by the number of product recalls in general, this is not an uncommon occurrence.

The mere label of “beta software” can not be used as an argument that Smart Summon should not have been released. The way artificial intelligence neural nets (AI-NN) are programmed or trained makes wide distribution and use of the beta versions a necessity.

To create an AI-NN that can do what a human can do in a certain situation, like navigating a parking lot, the developer needs millions of examples of how to do it and how not to do it. We can expect a far better Smart Summon in a few weeks. Something that would not just have taken longer without this beta release, but would have been impossible.

There were over half a million uses of Smart Summon in just the first day without a serious accident. Many of these were experimental and looking for the reach and depth of the new functionality. This makes the assumption by Tesla and the regulators, that this software is safe enough to be in a large public beta, correct.

As was expected, there are many possibilities for improvements. But we have not seen any shortcomings that justify an immediate OTA update, the Tesla equivalent of a recall.

After the introduction of Navigate on Autopilot (NoA), customers were hungry for the next improvement. Many hoped that it would be the ability to stop at traffic lights and stop signs. Urban environments and city driving are the most difficult parts of driving and where cars are most likely to get into accidents. This is true for both humans and autonomous vehicles.

Most of the challenges of city driving are also encountered in Smart Summon, and more so in the coming Smart Parking, only at a much lower speed and with less risk for the surroundings and bystanders. With the release of small but complex and safe functionality, Tesla shows that it is following a low-risk route to Full Self Driving.

These two parking lot releases this quarter are at an acceptable quality level and are good for Tesla profits. It justifies the release into revenue of the money that was parked on the balance sheet awaiting delivery of these functions. It also inspires more people — new buyers as well as existing owners — to purchase the Full Self Driving package.

Tesla can use the extra revenue, and we need a safe autonomous driving solution. Please, make more baby steps, Tesla. Don’t scare the public away from Full Self Driving. Perhaps make the next steps in China. The public in the large megalopolises of China is a lot more willing to accept FSD than the public in Europe and the USA. Driving in those unregulated melting pots of 19th century foot traffic and 21st century trucks intermixed with all kinds of wheeled vehicles is far harder than driving on the wide and open roads of the USA. When you master Full Self Driving there, you master it everywhere.

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Maarten Vinkhuyzen

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. At the end of 2019 I succeeded, I replaced my Twingo diesel for a Zoe fully electric.

Maarten Vinkhuyzen has 280 posts and counting. See all posts by Maarten Vinkhuyzen