US probes potential of drivers playing video games in Teslas | News

ATHENS, Ohio (AP) – The United States has launched a formal investigation into whether Tesla drivers can play video games on a central 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.

“To date, the agency has received an owner complaint describing the gaming functionality and has confirmed that this capability has been available since December 2020 in vehicles equipped with Tesla ‘Passenger Play’,” said a spokesperson for the NHTSA in an email. “Prior to this time, gameplay activation was only possible when the vehicle was parked.”

The investigation, which covers all four Tesla Models, Models S, X, Y and 3, was opened “to assess the distraction potential of the Tesla ‘Passenger Play’ driver while the vehicle is being driven.” Investigators “will assess aspects of the functionality, including frequency and use cases of Tesla” Passenger Play. “

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s survey covers approximately 580,000 electric cars and SUVs from the 2017 to 2022 model years.

NHTSA documents do not list any accidents or injuries caused by the problem.

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

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 could now play a video game on his touchscreen while the vehicle was in motion.

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

“I was just stunned that, yeah, sure, this fancy video game came out,” said Patton, a 59-year-old retired broadcast reporter who lives near Portland, Oregon.

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

Patton, who loves his car and says he has nothing against Tesla, fears drivers will play games and become dangerously distracted.

“Someone is going to be killed,” he said. “This is absolutely crazy.”

He therefore filed a complaint early last month.

“NHTSA must ban all live video in the front seat and all live interactive web browsing while the car is in motion,” Patton wrote in his complaint. “To create a dangerous distraction for the driver is reckless negligence.”

Earlier in December, Mercedes-Benz issued a recall for a similar issue caused by a computer configuration error, raising questions about whether Tesla was allowed to do something that other automakers aren’t doing. Most car manufacturers turn off front touch screens when vehicles are in motion.

In the case of Mercedes, drivers could browse the Internet or watch TV while the cars were in motion. The automaker said it intends to turn off the features while the cars are in motion. The problem was corrected by updating a Mercedes server.

NHTSA is already investigating why Tesla’s partially automated “Autopilot” driving system continues to crash into stopped emergency vehicles, and asked why Tesla didn’t file recall documents when it performed a live internet update in an attempt to resolve the issue. security issue. It is also examining the performance of Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” software after receiving a complaint that it nearly caused a crash.

Tesla says neither of the two systems can drive vehicles and that drivers should be ready to step in at all times.

John C. Dent