The National Highway Transport and Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently launched investigations into Tesla’s 580,000 vehicles over its passenger game feature capabilities at the center of its dashboard.
However, the video game capabilities on Tesla vehicles are not a new feature. It has existed in all Tesla models released between 2017 to 2022, including models 3, S, X, and Y.
Passenger Gaming Has Existed Since 2017
According to NHTSA, the gaming feature has been present in all Tesla’s passenger game-enabled vehicles but could only be activated when the car was in parking mode.
However, a 2020 update of Tesla’s gaming feature made it possible for passengers to play even when the car is in drive mode.
The gaming feature became the center of attention after the New York Times highlighted the feature triggering a lot of concern from industry players.
While highlighting the game feature, the Times said that Tesla added three games in the update, including solitaire, a conquest strategy scenario, and jet fighter games. The feature requires a player to confirm that they are not the driver.
However, it doesn’t provide measures to stop the driver from playing, which increases the possibility of distracted driving.
NHTSA’s Commitment to Safety
“Our commitment is to ensure the highest safety standards on the roads,” cited the NHTSA when addressing the issue. According to the road safety regulator, investigations will involve a preliminary evaluation of all aspects of the feature, including its use scenario.
A preliminary evaluation is only a first step that will advise the regulator whether or not to upgrade the investigation into a full-blown engineering analysis that must precede a recall.
Tesla’s passenger gaming feature update by all standards indicates a level of disregard of 2013 NHTSA guidelines that required automakers to consider safety and distraction avoidance when designing and incorporating infotainment devices in vehicles.
In the guidelines, the regulatory body recommended that all in-vehicle devices adopt a design that prevents a driver from performing an inherently distracting task while on the wheel.
Investigations Have Been in The Works
While interest in the passenger gaming feature appears to have been triggered by the Times, the regulatory body claimed that investigation has been in the works since November when it received a complaint from a Tesla Model 3 driver. When making the report, the driver said that it was recklessly negligent for Tesla to install a distraction for drivers.
This was not the first-time Tesla faced investigations in 2021; in August, the NHTSA launched investigations into over 76,000 Tesla cars over its autopilot driver assistance system after a series of crashes linked to the system.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) hailed the move by the regulatory body and encouraged all drivers to be vigilant and avoid distraction when on the wheel.
According to some experts, there is a simple fix to Tesla’s problem with the gaming feature; rolling back the updates.
Rolling back updates to a time before December 2020 would mean that the feature would not work while the car is in drive mode, just like before the update.
Alternatively, they could update the feature to lock while in drive mode.