Driver distracted.. US investigation into the possibility of playing video while driving Tesla
The federal government’s main auto safety regulator has opened an investigation into a feature in Tesla cars that allows drivers to play games on a touch screen in the console while the car is in motion.
“This function, referred to as ‘passenger play’, may distract the driver and increase the risk of an accident,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a document submitted on its website.
The measure comes after The New York Times reported on safety concerns this month.
The investigation, conducted by the Safety Agency, part of the Ministry of Transportation, covers about 580,000 cars and SUVs from the years 2017 through 2022.
The agency is also separately investigating potential defects in the electric car company’s autopilot system that can steer, accelerate and brake on its own.
“When opening this initial assessment, the authority will evaluate scenarios in which the driver can interact with the passenger play feature,” the agency said.
This investigation does not focus on autopilot, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has hinted at potential concerns that drivers could play games while using the advanced driver assistance system while mistakenly thinking the car was driving itself.
Tesla instructs drivers to put their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention to the road while on autopilot.
“The authority reminds the public that there are no commercially available cars today that can drive themselves,” the agency said.
“Some advanced driving assistance features can enhance safety by helping drivers avoid breakdowns and mitigate crashes, but as with all technology and equipment on cars, drivers must use them correctly and responsibly,” she added.
Safety experts have criticized Tesla for not installing effective safeguards in its cars to ensure drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road while on autopilot.
The company and its chief executive, Elon Musk, have also been criticized by safety experts for promoting autopilot and a more advanced package of services called “completely autonomous driving” as truly autonomous systems.
The company has allowed some owners onto public roads for a full self-driving test, which Tesla said can’t actually drive its cars alone.
The agency said that the video game feature has been available since December 2020 in some Tesla cars. Before this time, the agency added, “play was only enabled when the car was in a parked state.”
In August, Tesla provided a wireless software update for its cars that added 3 games that can be played while the vehicles are in motion: Solitaire, a fighter plane game called Fly Power Again, Battle Polytopia and the strategy game Moonrise.
Vince Patton, a retired man who lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon, filed a complaint with the safety agency through its website after purchasing a Tesla Model 3 this summer. He said he was able to play a 3-style solitaire while the car was in motion.
In a statement to the “New York Times”, he said, “I am completely dumbfounded.” “For me, it looks fundamentally dangerous,” he added.
* Gregory Schmidt contributed to the preparation of the report
Source: The New York Times
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