This week has just been jam-packed with videos of Teslas in Smart Summon mode driving nervously and timorously through parking lots, occasionally stopping, sometimes making weird mistakes before owners go running up to them in a panic. One recent video seems to show a police officer pulling over a Tesla for running a stop sign, but, not really surprisingly, it’s fake.
Here’s the video I’m talking about:
So, yeah, that feels pretty fake.
There’s a lot of reasons to think this is staged: it’s in a private parking lot, where police wouldn’t be patrolling, the cop doesn’t seem to notice or care about the two people filming everything, the cop’s reactions, it’s all just pretty suspect.
If only there was some way to be certain, though, right?
Well, happily, there is! You can see that the police car is from the Pembroke Pines, Florida police department, and the friendly cop’s name is clearly visible:
So, I gave Officer Marchetti a call.
Incredibly, I was the first to ask him about this video which was, as you may have guessed, 100% staged. No cop pulled over the Tesla, though it did technically run that stop sign. Officer Marchetti was a little displeased that his name hadn’t been blurred out or anything, but he accepted it with good humor.
I asked if this was real, what would have happened, and he admitted that legally, right now all this is in a sort of gray area. He’s not exactly sure how the law would cover something like this, though he did mention if the car hit anyone or anything, the owner would be responsible.
He also said the Tesla was being very cautious, and seemed “scared to move forward,” and that he felt, while it’s all very impressive and cool, Smart Summon “needs to be refined a lot.”
I didn’t see anywhere in the video where it was admitted it was all set up, so, just in case you’re a newborn, still wiping bits of placenta off yourself as you read this, you might not be aware that you maybe shouldn’t trust everything you see on the internet.
At some point, this will come up, though, and all these interesting and difficult questions of liability and responsibility will arise.
But not just yet.
UPDATE: The officer from the video has helpfully provided us with some answers to questions he’s been getting:
First and foremost, anything within these few questions/answers is pertaining to Florida law. I can’t
speak for other states, etc.:
Q: Was this staged?
Q: Can a local police agency/sheriff’s office issue a citation on private property?
A: If that private property has a traffic agreement with the city/police agency, YES you can be cited on private property.
Q: Who would receive the ticket in a case like in the video?
A: Florida law states that the person “controlling/operating” the autonomous car would be responsible.
Holding down the “summon” button in the app technically puts you in “control” of the vehicle making you the sole operator of said vehicle (making you responsible for any mistakes the car may make: I.E. running a stop sign, etc.)
Overall with what I’ve seen online and in person with the “Summon Mode” is that the car is extremely cautious. The car would sometimes come to a complete sudden stop if there were any sort of movement in front of the vehicle. This sort of eases my mind in cases where a pedestrian, bicyclist, motor vehicle, or other obstruction were to travel in front of the vehicle. At the same time, I would sure hope that if there were some sort of malfunction with the front facing sensors/cameras/radar there would be a failsafe to either disable the vehicle/notify the operator.
I’d say the biggest hazard in this stage of the Summon Mode is the sudden stops of the vehicle. Vehicles behind the Tesla could be following too closely/not paying attention and rear-end the vehicle. Another hazard would be where the Tesla would place itself when responding to the operator, in one test within the video, the vehicle placed itself into the opposite direction of travel to be close to the operator/summoning area. This could obviously be a hazard, but I do believe the vehicle would stop itself in time before any collision (it would just cause other drivers in parking lots to be extremely frustrated).
Autonomous vehicle laws are extremely new and enforcement hasn’t been prominent considering it’s so new. I have yet to encounter any Tesla vehicles violating traffic laws while actually working. As of now the laws state that whoever is “operating” the vehicle is responsible for any sort of violations/crashes, etc.