580,000 Tesla Vehicles Under Investigation Over Gaming Feature Regulators Warn Can Distract Drivers

580,000 Tesla Vehicles Under Investigation Over Gaming Feature Regulators Warn Can Distract Drivers

Topline

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into a gameplay function available in certain Teslas from model years 2017 to 2022 that allows drivers to play on the front center touchscreen even when the vehicle is in motion, the latest safety probe to be raised against the electric car behemoth.

Key Facts

An Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) document posted to the agency’s website Wednesday states that the “Passenger Play” function “may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash.”

The NHTSA confirmed that the gaming had been available in “Passenger Play”-enabled Teslas since December 2020, and that the investigation is looking into 580,000 Model 3, S, X, and Y vehicles.

Before that, the agency said gameplay was only enabled when the car was in park.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.

Big Number

3,142. That’s how many people died in 2019 because of distracted driver incidents, according to the NHTSA. According to the investigation document no crashes, injuries or fatalities have so far been reported in connection with the “Passenger Play” issue.

Key Background

The preliminary evaluation comes after the regulator said it had started looking into the gaming feature earlier this month and was “discussing the feature with the manufacturer” following a New York Times investigation. According to the investigation document, the ODI received one owner complaint about the issue filed last month by a Tesla owner in Oregon that read: “Creating a dangerous distraction for the driver is recklessly negligent.” It’s not the first time Tesla has been criticized for the safety of its models, especially its autopilot function. Just last month the company recalled 12,000 vehicles because of a communication issue in its software that could “cause a false forward-collision warning or unexpected activation of the emergency brakes,” per Reuters.

Further Reading

US opens investigation into 580,000 Tesla vehicles over game feature (Reuters)

US opens probe into Tesla letting drivers play video games (Associated Press)

Tesla Hit By 6 More Sexual Harassment Claims (Forbes)

A New Tesla Safety Concern: Drivers Can Play Video Games in Moving Cars (New York Times)

Tesla recalls nearly 12,000 US vehicles over software communication error (Reuters)

Tesla Says Autopilot Makes Its Cars Safer. Crash Victims Say It Kills. (New York Times)