A posting on Reddit today indicates that Tesla is rolling an update out to its vehicles to require that drivers confirm the direction of travel when Summon is activated — possibly a direct response to last week's news of a Model S in Utah that autonomously crashed into the back of a parked trailer while in Summon mode. As with other Tesla software upgrades, the latest update is happening over the air.
Summon, the self-parking feature that first rolled out in January, can be activated two ways: using a phone app, or via the gear selector from inside the car. Prior to this update, a self-parking maneuver initiated from inside the car using the gear selector would've caused the car to drive itself forward by default (though the driver could choose reverse from the center display). Now, the driver will need to choose forward or reverse each and every time they trigger Summon.
The driver has to choose forward or reverse every time
Theoretically, had this feature change already been in place, the Utah incident may have never happened because the driver would've had to explicitly specify that they wanted the car to drive forward into the trailer. Previously, various warnings were displayed after Summon had been activated, but it's possible that an inattentive driver could've ignored them.
Automakers frequently choose to "dumb down" features in their cars to limit liability and make it as difficult as possible for vehicles to be misused; a common example is navigation systems that lock out destination entry when the vehicle is in motion, preventing a driver from trying to enter an address while driving. Either way, sensors on Tesla's vehicles should prevent a car in Summon mode from ever crashing into a large parked object, though the company warns that they "may not detect certain obstacles, including those that are very narrow (e.g., bikes), lower than the fascia, or hanging from the ceiling."
In response to a request for comment on the Summon update, a spokesperson said that "Tesla is always making improvements to features in our vehicles."