Tesla is often flirting with one regulatory rule or the other. If it is not the CEO Elon Musk running into issues with the Securities Exchange Commission for his tweets, the company itself is adding eyebrow-raising features to its cars in an update. The latest trouble has earned it another investigation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The regulatory body has opened another investigation into Tesla after sending an update that allows some games to be played while the vehicle is in motion. The company calls the feature Passenger Play apparently in a bid to prove it is not meant for the driver. However, it seems the NHTSA is not impressed with the effort.
NHTSA says its Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) is looking at 580,000 units, including Model 3, Model S, Model X, and Model Y, starting from the 2017 model year. The agency points out that while whoever is playing the game has to acknowledge they are not the driver, the screen may distract the driver as they could clearly see the screen.
It is also ridiculously easy for a driver to pretend to be a passenger if they actually want to play a game while driving.
The offending update from Tesla allowed three games to be played without stopping the vehicle, unlike in the past when you had to be parked to play any game.
The investigation by the ODI will look at how distracting the Passenger Play feature could be to the driver while in motion. It will also evaluate different aspects of the feature, including how often it is used.
In the preliminary report by the NHTSA, the agency describes the incidence as “Tesla vehicles equipped with “Passenger Play” which allows the gameplay to function on the front center touchscreen while the vehicle is in motion and may present a distraction to the driver.”
Here is the summary of the investigation:
“The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) is opening a Preliminary Evaluation (PE) on certain model year (MY) 2017 – 2022 Model 3, S, X, and Y vehicles based on reports that Tesla gameplay functionality, which is visible on the front center touchscreen from the driver’s seat, is enabled even when the vehicle is being driven. This functionality, referred to as “Passenger Play,” may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash.
“ODI has received one Vehicle Owner Questionnaire (VOQ) describing the gameplay functionality and has confirmed that this capability has been available since December 2020 in Tesla “Passenger Play”-equipped vehicles. Prior to this time, gameplay was enabled only when the vehicle was in Park.
“This PE has been opened to evaluate the driver distraction potential of Tesla “Passenger Play” while the vehicle is being driven. Through this PE, ODI will evaluate aspects of the feature, including the frequency and use scenarios of Tesla’ Passenger Play.'”
The agency includes a link to the complaint that triggered the investigation, which was filed in August with ID 11439598. The report is reproduced below:
“Tesla is now making interactive video games and live internet web searching possible on the main front seat display WHILE THE CAR IS DRIVING. The video games are allegedly restricted only to passengers. Web browsing is available to anyone at any time. Why is a manufacturer allowed to create an inherently distracting live video which takes over 2/3 of the screen which the driver relies on for all vehicle information? Tesla has no gauges above the steering wheel. NHTSA needs to prohibit all live video in the front seat and all live interactive web browsing while the car is in motion. Creating a dangerous distraction for the driver is recklessly negligent.”
Tesla usually does not respond to media inquiries after disbanding its PR unit.