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Tesla disables in-car gaming feature that allowed play while MuskMobiles were in motion

Hey Elon, it's no secret that distracted driving is a major cause of US car fatalities

A software upgrade will disable a "feature" that allows the touchscreen on Tesla cars to play video games - even while the vehicles are in motion- after the USA's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigated a complaint about the tech.

The feature, called "Passenger Play", has been available since 2020 in the Tesla Model 3, S, X, and Y. As the name implies, it was aimed at passengers. Prior to 2020, occupants of the car could only play games while the vehicle was in park.

“Following the opening of a preliminary evaluation of Tesla’s ‘Passenger Play,’ Tesla informed the agency that it is changing the functionality of this feature. In a new software update, “Passenger Play” will now be locked and unusable when the vehicle is in motion,” said a statement from NHTSA.

“The NHTSA constantly assesses how manufacturers identify and safeguard against distraction hazards that may arise due to faults, misuse, or intended use of convenience technologies, including infotainment screens,” continued the government agency’s statement.

The investigation [PDF], which was opened on Tuesday, centers around the claim that having a gameplay function on the front center touchscreen while the car is in motion “may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash.”

Ya think?

The complaint that sparked the investigation was filed on November 6 from Lake Oswego, Oregon, and poses the question “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?”

On December 7, a month after the complaint was filed, the New York Times reported on the potential safety risks associated with the video game feature, in which they spoke with a Lake Oswego retiree.

Individuals have expressed criticism over NHTSA’s failure to act prior to the NYT article.

While the desire to entertain passengers, particularly on long journeys, is understandable, the potential for dangerous distraction is obvious. And such distractions are deadly: according to The Kiefer Foundation, distracted driving accounts for 10 deaths in the US every day and 1 in 11 fatal car crashes. According to the NHTSA, 3,142 people in the US were killed in 2019 by distracted driving.

This is not the first time Tesla has had to deal with accusations of enabling distracted driving. In February, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the deadly crash of an Apple engineer’s Tesla was due to overly trusting the car’s Autopilot software while the driver was likely engaged in a cellphone game.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has received ample criticism in the past for overstating autopilot tech in Tesla vehicles, and has faced lawsuits claiming “systemic fraud” based on accidents allegedly related to the company’s marketing claims. ®

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