Tesla Motors is making it safer to remotely summon or send off its Model S cars after receiving feedback on consumer field tests of the electric vehicle's remote valet feature.
Released last month, the Summon feature is an extension of the Model S' self-driving "Autopilot' system that raise its own safety concerns.
While not nearly as serious as letting a Model S drive down a residential road with poor lane markings, Consumer reports found that the EVs auto-valet feature Summon posed the risk of harming people and property.
"As we used the system, we became concerned that, in an emergency, a user might not be able stop the car right away if they were to press the wrong part of the key fob (the buttons are not marked) or if they dropped the key fob," says Consumer Reports.
After trying out the Summon feature on its test car, Consumer Reports found out that the using the Model S' smartphone app could be just as dangerous as trying to park the cars remotely via a key fob.
"When we closed the app with the car in motion (something that might happen accidentally), the car continued to move," says the consumer watchdog group.
The solution was to model the Model S' Summon controls after a dead man's switch, a system for detonating grenades posthumously in the event that a combatant has been killed and is no longer able to pull the trigger.
If a consumer, for some reason, is unable to stop the Model S from marching to or from a parking space or garage at its 1 MPH speed, the "dead man's switch" will kick in.
Through an over-the-air update, Tesla Motors has reversed the way the Model S' Summon controls work on the app and has, at least for now, disabled use of the feature via key fob.
Users will now need to hold the key fob as the Model S goes in or out of a space. If a smartphone's battery dies or the app crash or some other event takes control away from the user for any period, Summon will stop the cars in their tracks.
For Tesla Motors, its work in automotives is a fluid process and the company continues to be prepared to adapt as it moves deeper into uncharted territory.
Summon "lays important groundwork for an increasingly autonomous world -- one where the convenience and safety of transport vastly exceed what we are used to today," Tesla Motors says. "Autopilot began this process on the highways. Summon begins it in your garage. As the technology advances, the complementary capabilities of each will converge."