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Tesla self-driving accident leaves Montreal man with hefty bill

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George Ghazzoul is warning other drivers about the new Smart Summon feature on Tesla vehicles after his self-driving vehicle side-swiped another in a parking lot.

When Ghazzoul bought a Tesla two years ago, he admitted it wasn't just the car's style that drove him; it was his love of technology.

"Really, the selling point for me is the fact you get software updates and you always get new features on the car," he said.

One of the latest downloadable features is Smart Summon.

Like a valet service, it allows your car to come to you using your phone's GPS as its target destination.

Ghazzoul decided to give it a try on April 10 when he was at the Fairview Shopping Centre parking lot.

He used the feature to summon his parked car to pick him up.

"I was within range when I activated it," he said. "I saw it moving initially, but then it took a sharp turn right instead of pulling out of the spot first." He tried to deactivate the feature, but the car didn't stop in time, so he ended up sideswiping the car parked beside it.

The estimate for damage to both cars was several thousand dollars. Ghazzoul contacted Tesla about the accident.

He said since it was their feature that malfunctioned, they should take responsibility, but he said they told him to contact his insurance company instead and that it was not their problem since he activated the feature.

His insurance company, meanwhile, said he was fully at fault for the accident.

What's worse for Ghazzoul is that he has since discovered that it wasn't even legal for him to use this driverless feature in public spaces in Quebec.

"The rules were written before the technology existed," according to George Iny, the director of the Automobile Protection Association.

He said that it's up to drivers to know the rules of the road, including the fact that parking lots are considered public spaces and, therefore, this technology should not be activated.

He said, however, that it's also up to manufacturers to communicate this to their customers.

"There is also the issue of the ethical and moral compass of a company that sells you a feature that is no good to you, where the car is going to be registered and doesn't bother to tell you don't use this," said Iny.

He added that manufacturers could also not activate such features in markets where it would not be allowed.

Tesla did not respond to CTV's request for an interview.

Ghazzoul said that while he is relieved no one got hurt, he's now left to pay for the damages himself so that his insurance premiums don't go up. He says he feels disappointed with Tesla.

"There's no information on where to use it and where not to use it," he said.

He wants to warn other Tesla drivers not to make the same mistake he did, and check first before taking new features out for a test drive. 
 

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