| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

U.S. opens investigation into 580,000 Tesla vehicles over game feature

Tesla’s decision to enable games to be played on the front center touchscreen prompted US auto safety regulators to start a formal safety inquiry into 580,000 Tesla vehicles delivered since 2017.

The preliminary assessment by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) covers different Tesla Model 3, S, X, and Y automobiles from 2017 to 2022. According to the commission, this feature, known as “Passenger Play,” “may distract the driver and raise the danger of an accident.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said that it has “This feature has been accessible in Tesla ‘Passenger Play’-equipped automobiles since December 2020, according to Tesla.

Previously, the gaming function was only available when the car was in Park.”

Tesla did not immediately comment.

NHTSA said it would “evaluate aspects of the feature, including the frequency and use scenarios of Tesla ‘Passenger Play’.”

Earlier this month, the New York Times highlighted the game feature, prompting NHTSA to say it was in discussions with Tesla regarding it.

The agency noted earlier in December that distracted driving accounts for a significant number of U.S. road deaths – 3,142 in 2019 alone. Safety advocates have said official figures underestimate the problem because not all drivers involved in crashes later admit they were distracted.

The Times said the Tesla update added three games – Solitaire, a jet fighter and conquest strategy scenario – and said that vehicles have warnings reading: “Playing while the car is in motion is only for passengers.”

The paper said the game feature asks for confirmation that the player is a passenger, though a driver could still play simply by pressing a button.

In 2013, NHTSA issued guidelines to encourage automakers “to factor safety and driver distraction-prevention into their designs and adoption of infotainment devices in vehicles.”

The guidelines “recommend that in-vehicle devices be designed so that they cannot be used by the driver to perform inherently distracting secondary tasks while driving,” the agency said.

The agency in August opened a safety investigation into 765,000 Tesla vehicles over its driver-assistance system Autopilot after a series of crashes involving the system and parked emergency vehicles.

A preliminary evaluation is a first step before NHTSA decides whether to upgrade a probe to an engineering analysis, which must happen before the agency can demand a recall.

NHTSA said it 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.”

On Nov. 29, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz recalled 227 U.S. vehicles – 2021 model year S580, 2022 EQS450, EQS580, and S500 — because the vehicle infotainment systems “might allow activation of the television and internet display while driving, causing a distraction for the driver.”

  • Reuters