The U.S. Launches Probe into Tesla Letting Drivers Play Video Games

The United States has launched a formal investigation into Tesla letting drivers play video games which they can access on a centre touch screen while the vehicles are in motion. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is conducting the probe, which will cover up to 580,000 electric cars and SUVs. This is after the agency received a complaint that Tesla’s equipped with gameplay functionality allows games to be enabled on the screen while the vehicles are in motion.

In a document posted on its website, the agency revealed that the game capability functionality has been accessible since December 2020. Before that, you could only play the games when the Teslas were in Park.

The investigation will cover all four Tesla models, including the S, X, Y, and 3. It will seek to evaluate the potential for driver distraction of Tesla Passenger Play while the vehicle is in motion. The investigators will be looking at the aspects of the feature, such as frequency and use cases of the Tesla Passenger Play. At the moment, the NHTSA documents did not list any crashes or injuries resulting from the problem.

Driver Concerns

Vince Patton, a Tesla owner, living in Portland, Ore., filed a complaint with NHTSA in November 2021. Patton watched a video on YouTube of a Tesla owner, who realized that he could enjoy a video game on his touch screen while his car was in motion. Can you imagine that? Picture this; you can access your favorite live casino games online in your Tesla car while the vehicle is in motion! Well, for Patton, he was curious to see it for himself.

As a result, he drove his 2021 Tesla Model 3 to an empty community college parking lot. He activated Sky Force Reloaded from a menu and made several loops. To his surprise, the complicated video game came up. After that, the 59-year-old retired broadcast journalist also tried Solitaire, and he was also able to activate the game while the car was in motion. Moreover, he also discovered that he could browse the internet while driving.

It Can Be a Ticking Time Bomb

Patton loves his car and reiterated that he holds nothing against Tesla. However, he is concerned that drivers playing games could be dangerously distracted. In this regard, he claimed that someone could get killed. It is on this basis that he filed a complaint.

He claimed that NHTSA needed to forbid all live video in the front seat in his complaint. He also claimed that all live interactive web browsing, while the car is moving should be outlawed. Additionally, Patton stated that these features create a dangerous distraction for Tesla drivers, which is thoughtlessly negligent.

Mercedes Faced a Similar Issue

Mercedes Benz was forced to issue a recall in early December 2021 because of a similar challenge. In their case, the challenge was brought by a computer configuration problem. This raised concerns about whether the industry allowed Tesla to do something that other Automakers were forbidden from doing. The standard in the auto industry is that front screens are disabled for vehicles in motion.

The challenge with Mercedes Benz was that drivers could browse the internet or watch TV while their cars were in motion. According to the automaker, they intended to disable these features when the cars were moving. After the recall, the automaker resolved the issue by updating a Mercedes server.

Currently, NHTSA is already looking into why Tesla’s Autopilot partially automated driving system keeps crashing into stopped emergency vehicles. Besides that, it had also questioned why Tesla did not file recall documents when it conducted an over-the-internet update as it tried to resolve the safety issue.

Additionally, NHTSA is also investigating the performance of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Software. This is after it received complaints that it almost caused a crash. However, Tesla, in its defence, claimed that none of the systems could drive vehicles, and drivers should be ready to get involved all the time.

Mixed Reactions from Other Road Users

Surprisingly, not everyone thinks there is anything wrong with that feature. For instance, one commented that there was nothing wrong with that. He even claimed that in Japan, drivers watch TV while they are driving. On the other hand, he was surprised that while watching TV was allowed, speaking on a cell phone while driving was illegal!

Another road user responded by claiming that he is in Japan and watches TV while the car has stopped. For instance, he claimed that he drives five hours or more every day in Tokyo, and it would be a nightmare to spend all this time without watching videos on YouTube. In this sense, he feels it would be a waste of time to drive for all this while without doing anything else.

Final Thoughts

Well, even though there are different opinions about these features, road safety is paramount. In this sense, it is up to the NHTSA to ensure that whatever features are allowed on vehicles, road user safety should take preeminence.