NHTSA probes Tesla after reports that drivers can play video games on the move

The agency is looking to “assess the driver’s distraction potential” from the feature.

U.S. road safety regulators have launched a formal investigation into some Tesla vehicles after reports revealed that drivers could play video games on the car’s touchscreen while they were in motion.

A spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday that the agency has opened a preliminary assessment of certain Tesla vehicles, including the Model 3, S, X and Y, produced between 2017 and 2022.

The investigation aims to “assess the distraction potential of the Tesla ‘Passenger Play’ driver,” the spokesperson told ABC News in a statement.

“NHTSA based its decision on information that Tesla’s gaming functionality is visible from the driver’s seat and can be activated while driving the vehicle,” the statement added.

The agency said it had received an owner complaint describing the gaming functionality and confirmed that this capability has been available since December 2020 in vehicles equipped with Tesla “Passenger Play”. Prior to that, activating the game was only possible when the vehicle was parked, according to NHTSA.

The agency said it was looking to assess scenarios in which a driver might interact with the “Passenger Play” feature as part of its investigation.

Earlier this month, the New York Times published a survey in Tesla’s video game features highlighting the so-called “passenger game” option. The report said that a firmware update from Tesla added at least three games that drivers could access while the car was on the move – and that in a warning that appears before the game starts, Tesla reports that it is aware of it. of this and that “playing while the car is in motion is only for passengers.” The outlet reports that a button asks if the player is a passenger, but a driver can also play by simply touching it.

Distracted driving was blamed for the deaths of more than 3,000 people in 2019, according to separate data compiled by NHTSA.

Tesla, who previously disbanded its media relations team, did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on Wednesday.

In its statement to ABC News, the NHTSA added that it “reminds the public that no motor vehicle commercially available today can be driven alone.”

“Every available vehicle requires the human driver to be in control at all times, and all state laws hold the human driver responsible for the operation of their vehicles,” the agency added. “Some advanced driver assistance features can promote safety by helping drivers avoid crashes and lessen the severity of crashes that do occur, but as with all technologies and equipment in motor vehicles, drivers must use them correctly and responsibly. “

The latest investigation by regulators follows a separate and ongoing investigation into Tesla’s autopilot systems that was launched by NHTSA in August.

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