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Summon Your Driverless Car

Tesla owners in Canada can now have their parked vehicle drive to them, without a human driver. The Smart Summon feature in the Model S allows retrieval of your vehicle by a single tap of the Tesla mobile app.

This sounds astounding for snow and ice ravaged parking lots. However, consenting owners will still be responsible for any injury or damage. ICBC currently has no special insurance coverage for the Tesla Smart Summon feature.

Further, Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, ICBC, has no special legislation which addresses mobile app use. ICBC could therefore end up paying damages from the use of the Smart Summons Tesla feature.

Legal Test for Summoning Parked Vehicle

In British Columbia the motor vehicle legislation makes the owner of a vehicle vicariously liable for the negligence of the driver. In the case of Tesla Summons, the driver would likely be considered the the person controlling the vehicle.

The legal test is one of consent of the owner in BC. However, the law does not require certainty. It does require the Court draw a reasonable inference and does not rely on conjecture.  Having your children summon the Tesla, for example, would likely be a breach of the vehicle coverage with ICBC if there is an accident.

Therefore, Telsa owners must first make sure that a licensed driver is using the mobile app to summon the vehicle and that person is covered by the insurance. If non-licensed people use this summons feature, the owners could be in breach of the insurance. Being in breach of your auto insurance will mean having the re-pay ICBC or the auto insurance company for the loss.

What Tesla owners need to know about Smart Summon: Consent of the owner to use the Summon feature is critical. Owners are best protected by disabling this function for others. There is a heavy burden on those who have within their power the control of motor vehicles. Policy favours protecting innocent third parties seeking compensation for injuries suffered at the hands of negligent automobile drivers and, vicariously, owners.

Smart Summon Not Self-Driving

There will surely be litigation over the responsibility the manufacturer bears for exposing the public to the risk. The Tesla Summons feature appears to be a live research project for driverless car technology.

California does not consider the function to be autonomous technology. Therefore the Smart Summon is not governed by special AV regulations. British Columbia does not current have regulations for AV vehicles and legal analysis are relying on current legislation.

However, with a 200 foot range and a line of sight requirement, Smart Summon can hardly be considered a driverless vehicle technology. Self-driving cars will not have to be monitored and will drive without supervision. This application does not come close to meeting the accepted criteria for an autonomous vehicle.

This Smart Summon Tesla feature started rolling out in the USA in September, 2019 and in Canada October, 2019. Europe and China have not yet approved this technology and Tesla has no current plans to make it available world-wide.

We do not yet have any public comment from ICBC over the use of the Tesla Summon feature on BC roads. Always consult with your insurance agent when deciding on the appropriate coverage for your vehicle.

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Tags: Tesla Smart Summon, Vicariously Liable

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