US safety body to probe Tesla on in-car gameplay; Opens investigation

US safety regulators on December 22 announced that they have opened a safety investigation into 580,000 Tesla vehicles for playing video games on a center touch screen while the vehicle is in motion. The investigation follows a complaint filed by a user who discovered he could play games while driving. 

The document submitted by the probe team said, the feature under scrutiny is called Passenger Play, and it allows users to play games on their in-car touchscreen. While on the move it warns that the game is “for passengers only” and requires confirmation before allowing gameplay. Meanwhile, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that the game “may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash”.

NHTSA added that the feature had been available since December 2020. Previously the game feature was only enabled when the vehicle was in Park mode. NHTSA earlier reported that 3,142 road deaths in 2019 were attributed to distracted drivers.

Guidelines published by the agency in 2013 recommend that in-vehicle devices be designed so that they cannot be used by the driver “to perform inherently distracting secondary tasks while driving”. Last month, Tesla owner Vince Patton from Oregon spotted a video on YouTube which highlighted how Passenger Play could be used by drivers.

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After testing it in a car park and finding he could indeed play several games while driving, the owner filed a complaint with the NHTSA, describing the feature as “recklessly negligent”. Mercedes-Benz also 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.