US safety body probe Tesla on in-car gameplay

Telsa In Car Gameplay Distraction

In the United States, an investigation has been launched into more than half a million Tesla cars equipped with touchscreens.

The United States has launched a formal investigation into the possibility for Tesla drivers to play video games on the centre touchscreen while the vehicle is in motion.

In a document posted on its website Wednesday, the agency says the feature, called “Passenger Play,” can distract the driver and increase the risk of an accident.

It follows a complaint filed by a consumer who discovered he could play while driving.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reviewing nearly 580,000 Tesla 3, S and X models manufactured from 2017 to date.

The NHTSA noted that Passenger Play “may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash”.

“To date, the agency has received one owner complaint describing the gameplay functionality and has confirmed that this capability has been available since December 2020 in Tesla “Passenger Play”-equipped vehicles,” a NHTSA spokesman said in an email.

An investigation can lead to a recall. A message was left early Wednesday seeking comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations department.

Tesla has not yet commented on the investigation. The feature under review is called Passenger Play and allows users to play games on the car’s touchscreen.

It does display a warning that gaming while driving should be for “passengers only” and asks for confirmation before allowing gameplay.

Earlier this month, the NHTSA reported 3,142 road deaths in 2019 were attributed to distracted drivers.

Guidelines published by the agency in 2013 recommend that on-board devices be designed so that they cannot be used by the driver “to perform inherently distracting secondary tasks while driving.”

Tesla owner Vince Patton, who lives near Portland, Oregon, filed the complaint with the agency last month. In August, he was watching a YouTube video of a Tesla owner who discovered he can now play a video game on his touchscreen while the vehicle is in motion.

Curious to see for himself, Patton himself drove Tesla Model 3 2021 to an empty community college parking lot, activated a game called “Sky Force Reloaded” from a menu, and made some loops.

“I was just dumbfounded that, yes, sure enough, this sophisticated video game came up,” said Patton

He also tried Solitaire and was able to activate this game while driving. He later discovered that he could browse the Internet while his car was in motion

Patton, who loves his car and says he doesn’t mind Tesla, is worried that drivers will play games and get distracted dangerously.

“Somebody’s going to get killed,” he said. “It’s absolutely insane.”

“NHTSA needs to prohibit all live video in the front seat and all live interactive web browsing while the car is in motion,” Patton wrote in his complaint. “Creating a dangerous distraction for the driver is recklessly negligent.”

In 2013, the NHTSA issued guidelines to encourage car manufacturers to “include driver safety and avoidance distraction in their design and adoption of in-vehicle infotainment devices”. The guidelines “recommend that in-vehicle devices be designed in such a way that they cannot be used by the driver to perform inherently distracting secondary tasks while driving,” the agency said.

The NHTSA guidelines “specify a test method for assessing whether a task interferes with a driver’s attention, making it unusable for the driver while driving.”

The agency in August opened a safety investigation into Tesla Autopilot’s driver assistance system after a series of incidents involving the system and parked emergency vehicles.

“Distraction-affected crashes are a concern, particularly in vehicles equipped with an array of convenience technologies such as entertainment screens. We are aware of driver concerns and are discussing the feature with the manufacturer,” NHTSA said in a statement provided to Reuters by email.

Driving Study Distraction Risk Analyses
Driving Study Distraction Risk Analyses | NHTSA Distraction Guidelines Initial Notice

Earlier this month, Mercedes-Benz issued a recall for an issue caused by a computer configuration error that allowed drivers to browse the internet or watch television while the cars were moving.

Matthew Giannelis

Secondary editor and executive officer at Tech Business News. Contracting as an IT support engineer for 20 years Matthew has a passion for sharing his knowledge of the technology industry. He's also an advocate for global cyber security matters.

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