LINDON — A Utah County man is calling for a deeper investigation into what went wrong after his Tesla Model S appeared to start up on its own and crash into the back of a trailer.
“I think it behooves them to figure out what happened, what happened with the vehicle, address it,” Jared Overton said Tuesday. “Just fix it.”
Overton said he was running errands on April 29 and had parked the Tesla well behind a trailer near 400 North and 1030 West in Lindon.
A worker at the business met him at the side of the road, Overton said, and asked him multiple questions about his car.
“You know, Tesla’s kind of a flashy car — he’d never seen one in person,” Overton said.
After at least 20 seconds to as long as a minute standing near the car, Overton said he and the worker walked inside the business.
Five minutes later, Overton and the worker emerged to find the Tesla had driven under the parked trailer, smashing the Tesla’s windshield.
“We were trying to figure out how on earth the vehicle started on its own,” Overton said. “What happened with this kind of rogue vehicle?”
Overton reported the issue to Tesla, and a week later received a letter from the company suggesting it was his fault.
“Tesla has reviewed the vehicle’s logs, which show that the incident occurred as a result of the driver not being properly attentive to the vehicle’s surroundings while using the Summon feature or maintaining responsibility for safely controlling the vehicle at all times,” the letter signed by a regional service manager read.
The letter said the Summon feature — which enables a Tesla vehicle to park itself, among other functions — “was initiated by a double-press of the gear selector stalk button, shifting from Drive to Park and requesting Summon activation.”
The letter said three seconds after Overton exited the car and closed the door, the Summon function initiated.
Overton disputed the findings, saying he put the vehicle in park and did not believe he ever initiated the self-park function.
He said even if he accidentally initiated the Summon feature, the vehicle should have started to park itself while he was still standing next to it, showing it off to the worker.
“Even during that 15, 20 second walk right here, we would have easily heard the impact of the vehicle into the back of the trailer,” Overton said. “They can tell me what they want to tell me with the logs, but it doesn’t change what we know happened here.”
Overton said nobody “in authority” in the company had talked to him directly about his concerns since the crash.
“They’re just assuming that I sat there and watched it happen, and I was OK with that,” Overton said.
A Tesla spokesman issued a statement to KSL Tuesday night that did not directly address Overton’s claims, but noted that the Summon feature is currently “in beta.”
“Safety is a top priority at Tesla, and we remain committed to ensuring our cars are among the absolute safest vehicles on today’s roads,” the statement read. “It is paramount that our customers also exercise safe behavior when using our vehicles — including remaining alert and present when using the car’s autonomous features, which can significantly improve our customers’ overall safety as well as enhance their driving experience.”
The statement said each Tesla owner must agree to terms on their touch screen before the feature is enabled.
“This feature will park Model S while the driver is outside the vehicle,” the statement continued. “Please note that the vehicle may not detect certain obstacles, including those that are very narrow (e.g., bikes), lower than the fascia, or hanging from the ceiling. As such, Summon requires that you continually monitor your vehicle’s movement and surroundings while it is in progress and that you remain prepared to stop the vehicle at any time using your key fob or mobile app or by pressing any door handle. You must maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle when using this feature and should only use it on private property.”
Overton said the company’s letter to him essentially dismissed the experience of two witnesses — himself and the worker — at the scene.
While he maintains he likes Tesla cars a lot and was driving a Tesla “loaner” Tuesday afternoon, he said he would like to see Tesla take a harder look at what went wrong to make sure it’s not a flaw that could show up again.
Overton said the issue wasn't about money for him, with a windshield repair totaling about $700.
“Imagine if a child was right there — I guarantee that they would be responding to this a lot differently,” Overton said. “I will not feel safe with my little boy playing in the garage or the driveway if there’s the potential for a rogue vehicle.”