Tesla Smart Summon is getting Smarter, See Neural Net in Action


Tesla Smart Summon has learned to recognize traffic cones and poles in inner-city streets. Recently, Tesla owner Omar posted a video of his Model 3 actively avoiding a single traffic pole in the middle of a parking lot after he activated Smart Summon. Tesla recently released the traffic cone recognition update, and now Smart Summon has the capability as well, proving that the company’s Neural Net is actively learning—and it’s learning fast.

In Omar’s first video, Smart Summon is activated as indicated by the all-electric vehicle’s folded mirrors. The parking lot his Model 3 is attempting to maneuver around is pretty empty, so it doesn’t have any obstacles in its way…until it sees an orange traffic pole in the middle of its intended path.

The Model 3 seemed to think about the traffic pole in front of it--as if saying, “What is this?” Then it slowly approaches the pole and circumnavigates around it until it is in the clear.

Traffic cone recognition came to Tesla vehicles in an update about a week ago. The new capability is officially called Driving Visualization Improvements. According to Tesla’s Release Notes, the new feature will suggest that drivers switch lanes when a traffic cone is in sight while Navigate on Autopilot is enabled—but only if the Tesla has Full Self-Driving.

Based on the capability’s description, the improvements are meant to be used while there is a driver inside the vehicle guiding it as he or she sees fit. However, it isn’t far-fetched to conclude that the feature is basically feeding more data for the Neural Net to consume. With traffic cone recognition, Tesla cars will be able to “learn” how individual humans react to the bright orange obstacles in the road and can send that data to the Neural Net so it can improve Elon Musk’s true Autopilot system.


As of now, Smart Summon is the only Tesla capability that is the closest to full self-driving. The only control drivers have over Smart Summon is the button on the app. When a driver continuously presses the “Come to Me” button, the car continues to drive. When they stop pressing it, the vehicle comes to a full halt. Otherwise, the car maneuvers through parking lots and driveways by itself, and the driver can not communicate which path would be better to take…yet. In other words, the car is left to decide its own path—literally.

Since there is no one actively making decisions for a Tesla during Smart Summon, it has to make its own choices based on data from the Neural Net. This is why a Model 3 deciding to avoid a simple traffic pole is a significant accomplishment. Omar’s video reveals the Neural Net in action through the Smart Summon feature. It shows Omar’s Tesla Model 3 basically “choosing” to avoid a traffic cone because it had “learned” to steer away from such obstacles.

Omar posted a second video of Smart Summon at work shortly after the first. This time the obstacles were way more challenging. His Tesla Model 3 didn’t just have to avoid a traffic pole, but trees and a school bus as well.

As the video plays, the car seems like it is actually thinking about the best path to take. The car makes a wrong turn at first and continuously corrects itself to find a way around the three obstacles in its path.

Omar’s second video reveals how close Elon Musk and the rest of team Tesla are to Full Self-Driving. Musk predicted as much during the Q3 earnings call when he mentioned improvements coming to Smart Summon.

“Regarding the Version 10 and Smart Summon, last month, we released our latest Software Version 10, which includes video streaming games karaoke, Spotify, and a host of other new features and improvements. Most importantly, it includes the first version of Smart Summon, which has now been used 1 million times. So, it’s now over 1 million uses of Smart Summon, and in the next week or so, we will be releasing an improved version of Smart Summon taking into account all the data from those 1 million Smart Summon attempts.

“So, this really illustrates the value of having a massive fleet, because it allows us to collect these corner cases and learn from them, and use street learning and become rapidly better just as Navigator and Autopilot did on the freeway. So, expect a number of improvements in Smart Summon in the weeks to come. And this is really just the beginning as we collect more data, and Autopilot and Full Self-Driving functionality get better,” Elon Musk said. 

About the Author

Claribelle Deveza

Claribelle Deveza

Longtime writer and news/book editor. Writing about Tesla allows me to contribute something good to the world, while doing something I love.

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