Under NHTSA Scrutiny, Tesla Updates Gaming Feature

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According to a recent report, a dangerous feature on Tesla cars has been discontinued after drivers were able to play video games on their screen while operating the vehicle.

A feature allowing Tesla drivers to play video games on their cars’ touchscreens while driving has been discontinued after federal scrutiny. According to a report by CNN, the electric car company announced it would update the software such that drivers could not access the feature while their cars were in motion. 

The feature was under investigation by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, which released documentation last week showing that the feature, “Passenger Play,” had been available since December of last year. Allowing people to play games on the dashboard’s center touchscreen, the feature was apparently designed for passengers, but the NHTSA found that “nothing prevented drivers from playing while the car is being driven.” Before December of last year, it was only usable “while the car was in park.” 

“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,” the agency said in a statement. Among other things, it found that the use of Passenger Play by passengers alone still increased the risk of a crash resulted from distracted driving. 

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This feature was originally designed for passengers to play video games, but there was no way for the car to detect if it was the driver or the passenger playing, which of course has raised many safety concerns.

As CNN notes, the NHTSA is overseeing a broader investigation of Tesla “for at least 11 accidents involving cars using its Autopilot or other self-driving features that collided with emergency vehicles when coming upon the scene of an earlier crash.” The accidents in question reportedly caused “17 injuries and one death.” 

According to The Verge, the NHTSA investigation into Tesla’s autopilot feature began in August 2021 and expanded in September. As part of the probe, the NHTSA asked 12 car manufacturers to provide information about “Level 2 driver assist programs” in their vehicles, which let cars “simultaneously control steering, braking, and acceleration under specific circumstances.”

More information on the NHTSA investigation into Tesla’s autopilot feature is available via The Verge. More information on the Passenger Play feature is available via CNN. 

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