Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)
Days after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, issued a preliminary investigation In Tesla’s “Passenger Play” feature – which allows drivers to play certain games on the car’s central touchscreen while the vehicle is in motion – the automaker has decided to tweak the feature to prevent this incredibly dangerous and potentially deadly activity.
The NHTSA confirmed to Gizmodo on Thursday that Tesla was changing the functionality of Passenger Play. The research was prompted by a filed a complaint to the desk of Tesla Model 3 owner Vince Patton in November. Patton decided to file a complaint after discovering that he was playing games, such as Sky Force Reloaded and Solitaire, in his car while it was in motion. (He tested Passenger Play in an empty university parking lot).
“Someone’s going to be killed,” Patton told the… Associated Press. “It’s absolutely insane.”
According to the NHTSA, in December 2020 drivers were given the option to play games in their Teslas while on the move. While drivers could play games before that, they were only accessible when the car was parked. Last summer, Tesla added the games Solitaire, Sky Force Reloaded, and The Battle of Polytopia: Moonrise to Passenger Play, all of which can be played while the car is moving, the New York Times reported.
The times found that although players are asked to confirm they are not driving when they open the game, nothing prevents them from lying and clicking through to play.
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The agency’s investigation covers all Tesla models produced between 2017 and 2022, or approximately 580,000 vehicles. The NHTSA told Gizmodo that the investigation remained open and that it is gathering more information from Tesla.
“Following the opening of a preliminary review 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,” an NHTSA spokesperson said in a statement. “The Agency maintains regular consultations with all manufacturers to discuss potential safety issues with these systems, including Tesla’s response to our concerns about this feature.”
The spokesman added that the Vehicle Safety Act prohibits manufacturers from selling cars with defects that pose unreasonable risks to safety. This includes “technologies that distract drivers from safe driving,” the spokesperson said.
Gizmodo contacted Tesla on Thursday for comment, but received no response at the time of publication. Since the car manufacturer disbanded its press department, it is very unlikely that we will receive a response. Nevertheless, we will make sure to update this article in the rare event that the company contacts us.
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