Tesla Stops Gaming While Moving, Amid US Safety Investigation

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Amid US safety investigation, Tesla says it will stop allowing computer games to be played on the car’s central touchscreen

Tesla has responded quickly after the US safety regulator revealed earlier this week that is investigating the gaming feature of its electric cars.

The investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) affected 580,000 Tesla Model 3, S, X, and Y vehicles sold since 2017. The problem was that drivers could play games on the car’s central touchscreen, whilst the vehicle was in motion.

It should be noted that Tesla’s Autopilot system is also being investigated by the NHTSA, over a number of high profile accidents with emergency service vehicles while Autopilot was being used.

Gaming while driving

Since December 2020, Tesla had allowed ‘Passenger Play’-equipped vehicles” to play computer games on the car’s central touchscreen while the car was in motion.

The car did have a warning however that stated “playing while the car is in motion is only for passengers.”

The car then asked for confirmation that the player is actually a passenger, and not the driver.

But the NHTSA began its investigation when it emerged that a driver could still play simply by pressing a button confirmation that he or she was not the driver.

The NHTSA thus said Tesla’s “Passenger Play” may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash.

The NHTSA acted after it had received a complaint in November about the game feature from a Tesla Model 3 driver in Oregon, who said: “creating a dangerous distraction for the driver is recklessly negligent.”

Games that can be played on the car’s central touchscreen included Solitaire, jet fighter and conquest strategy games.

Software update

Now the NHTSA has said on Thursday that Tesla will stop allowing video games to be played on vehicle screens while its cars are moving, Reuters reported.

It seems that Tesla will issue a software update that will lock the “Passenger Play” feature and make it unusable when the vehicle is in motion, a spokesperson for the agency reportedly said in a statement.

“The NHTSA constantly assesses how manufacturers identify and safeguard against distraction hazards that may arise due to faults, misuse, or intended use of convenience technologies, including infotainment screens,” the agency said.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Road deaths

The agency NHTSA warned earlier this month that distracted driving accounts for a significant number of road deaths in America, with 3,142 in 2019 alone, out of a total of 38,000 deaths per year on US roads.

The UK in comparison had a total of 1,752 road deaths in 2019.

Tesla has come in for a great deal of scrutiny of late due to the high level of driver-assistance systems in its vehicles.

Unfortunately these systems are often abused, even though these systems are not designed to used to drive the vehicle without the driver still being in control.

Previous examples of bad drivers misusing these systems in stupid ways includes using Autopilot to take a driver home whilst they are drunk but crash into a stationary police car; using Autopilot to allegedly show off to friends but killing them instead; using Autopilot to drive on a motorway while both driver and passenger slept; and using Autopilot to allow the driver to check on his dog, but instead crash instead into a stationary police car.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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