Regulators ‘crack down’ Tesla for letting customers play video games

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a formal investigation into 580,000 Tesla vehicles sold since 2017 that have allowed customers to play video games inside the vehicle. The company has allowed users to play a variety of games while the vehicles are in the park, some of which have allowed drivers to use the steering wheels and pedals as part of the controls, for a period of time. But a live software update allowed a few of them to be launched while the car was in motion by the passenger in the summer of 2021. Called “Passenger Play,” the service was limited to games. that only used touchscreen controls.

It has since been removed, however, regulators have taken an interest in the wake of a fabricated scandal. The NHTSA has questioned this feature as part of the ongoing distracted driving issue in an attempt to tie it to its crusade against autopilot. The agency has launched a preliminary investigation into 580,000 Tesla Model 3, S, X and Y vehicles to determine if they are attention-grabbing death traps.

It’s hard for me to see much interest in regulating something like passenger gambling when drivers could literally pull out their phones and literally play any mobile game they want while driving. But if it is about the fact that the screen itself is inconvenient, then regulators need to take a holistic view of the entire industry. Virtually every manufacturer in the sun now offers gigantic touchscreens with less than intuitive interfaces that force drivers to take their eyes off the road to do something as simple as tweak the radio station or turn on the car. heated seat. Many also offer advanced driving aids, which studies have shown make it easier for drivers to get distracted while driving.

The NHTSA said it was operating from reports that “Tesla’s gaming functionality is visible from the driver’s seat and can be activated while driving the vehicle,” requiring investigation. This seems to come mainly from a New York Times coin showing that Celestial Force Reloaded, The battle of Polytopia, and Solitary are all playable on the central touchscreen while the vehicles were in motion. However, anyone who plays these games must confirm that they are the passenger by quickly pressing the I-AM-A-PASSENGER button before launching.

Meanwhile, very little was said by regulators about what other apps Tesla was allowing customers to activate while driving even before the passenger game update, including the drawing on the touchscreen. and in-car karaoke applications. It sounds like an oversight for an agency which said it was committed to “ensuring the highest safety standards on the country’s roads” this week.

I’m not exactly known to be Tesla’s biggest fan. But it looks like a big NHTSA waste of time and energy. While I’m the first person to admit that autopilot can and is dangerously abused by users, similar claims can be made about advanced driving systems from other companies, and federal regulators rarely seem to make the leap. Perhaps Tesla is indeed the biggest offender, thanks to deceptive marketing. But distracted driving is a problem that has been accelerated by trends pursued by an entire industry that has spent the past decade promising that self-driving cars will already be here.

According to Reuters, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has once praised the NHTSA for reviewing something that has been disabled. On Wednesday, he said he was delighted to see the agency launch the Tesla safety investigation and that he wanted to “remind all drivers to be vigilant and focused on the road when you’re behind the wheel.”

From Reuters:

the [NHTSA] noted earlier in December that distracted driving was the cause of a significant number of road fatalities in the United States – 3,142 in 2019 alone. Safety advocates said official figures underestimate the problem, because not all drivers involved in crashes later admit that they have been distracted.

The Times said Tesla’s update added three games – Solitaire, a battle and conquest strategy storyline – and said the vehicles have warnings that read, “Playing while the car is in motion is only for. The passengers. “

The newspaper said the gaming feature asks for confirmation that the player is a passenger, although a driver can still play with the push of a button.

In 2013, the NHTSA issued guidelines to encourage automakers “to consider safety and the prevention of driver distraction in their designs and the adoption of in-vehicle infotainment devices.”

However, no one seems to really heed this advice. An increasing number of vehicle controls are now hidden behind layers of menus in touchscreen interfaces and infotainment systems continue to expand. Meanwhile, aftermarket companies selling components that let you play videos (or video games) while a vehicle is in motion have been around in abundance for decades. Hell, I remember a brief time when you could use Uconnect to play DVDs with the car running before Dodge realized that it had unintentionally left that digital backdoor open. Mercedes-Benz even had to recall a few hundred EQS and S-Class sedans this month due to an alleged error that allowed dashboard video to be played while driving.

I understand that the NHTSA vendetta against autopilot is important. But it starts to look like he’s got an ax to beat against Tesla for doing more or less the same things that every other automaker is guilty of. How, exactly, is a passenger gaming app more dangerous than connectivity services that allow the driver to book a restaurant reservation on the fly?

[Image: Virrage Images/Shutterstock]

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