Tesla will discontinue allowing drivers to play video games following a federal investigation

In response to a federal safety regulator’s investigation into the feature, Tesla reversed course on Thursday and announced that video games will no longer be allowed to be played on its cars’ touchscreens while they are in motion.

“Following the agency’s initial evaluation of Tesla’s ‘Passenger Play,’ Tesla notified the agency that it is changing the functionality of this feature,” a spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said late Thursday. “Tesla informed the agency that it is changing the functionality of this feature,” the spokesperson added. With the release of a new software update, the feature known as ‘Passenger Play’ will be disabled and inaccessible while the vehicle is moving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced on Wednesday that the documentation from the investigation indicated that the feature, dubbed “Passenger Play,” has been available to drivers since December 2020. The games are displayed on the large touchscreen located in the center of the dashboard. Despite the fact that the game’s name implies that it is intended to be played by passengers, according to the investigation’s documentation, there is nothing that prevents drivers from playing while driving.

In the investigation document submitted to the NHTSA prior to December 2020, it was stated that gameplay could only be accessed when the vehicle was in park. In addition, even if a passenger instead of the driver is engaged in the game, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns that it “may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash.”

The investigation into the agency’s practices received widespread media coverage on Thursday, just days before Tesla agreed to modify the games’ settings.

It is constantly evaluating how manufacturers identify and protect against distraction hazards that may arise as a result of defects, misuse, or the intended use of convenience technologies such as infotainment screens, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

With its driver assistance features, Tesla has been pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Its cars are now capable of slowing down, accelerating, and even changing lanes without the driver’s involvement.

Drivers who use features such as “Autopilot” and “FSD” for fully autonomous driving are advised to remain vigilant and to keep their hands on the steering wheel, according to the company. Although Tesla has received praise for making it easier for drivers to become distracted, the company has also come under fire for a number of crashes involving vehicles operating in Autopilot mode.

In at least 11 accidents involving Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot or other self-driving features colliding with emergency vehicles responding to a previous crash, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently investigating the company. In total, 17 people were injured and one person died as a result of these 11 accidents, according to the agency.

Distracted driving has been identified as a significant safety hazard on the roads of the United States by federal regulators. 3142 people were killed in accidents involving distracted drivers in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Passenger Play was the subject of an investigation that began in November in response to a complaint filed by an unidentified Tesla owner. As stated in the complaint, the feature allows for the playing of video games and web browsing while the vehicle is being driven.

“According to reports, passengers are the only ones who can access the video games. Anyone can access the internet at any time “According to the complaint “The question is, why is it permissible for a manufacturer to create a live video that is inherently distracting and that takes up more than two-thirds of the screen, which is where the driver gets all of his or her vehicle information? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should prohibit all live video in the front seat, as well as all interactive web browsing in real time while the vehicle is moving. Intentionally creating a potentially dangerous distraction for a driver is irresponsible.”

Tesla (TSLA), which rarely responds to media inquiries, did not respond to a request for comment on the investigation or the game feature.

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