Tesla Feature Allows Drivers to Game and Drive (or Even Surf the Net)

Tesla touch screen as illustration for "playing while driving" feature
Tesla cars appear to have a dangerous playing while driving "feature." Drivers can even surf the 'net. Looks like a recall may be coming up.

Tesla cars may be the greatest invention since ice cream, but the fact that you can play a video game while driving is definitely not a good thing—and it’s downright dangerous. Both to driver and passenger, along with others on the road. When we say playing while driving, we mean it: you can play a video game on a Tesla touch-screen dashboard while your vehicle is in motion. This is not reassuring. And it is not well known.

The surprising discovery that one can play video games on the dashboard while driving a Tesla came to the attention of a guy named Vince Patton, last August. Patton stumbled across a youtube demonstration of a Tesla owner playing while driving. Yikes!

Patton decided to check if it were really true, so he drove his 2021 Tesla Model 3 to the large, empty parking lot of a local community college. He then perused the Tesla menu and found a game called “Sky Force Reloaded.” The Tesla owner found he absolutely could play the game while driving, and then he checked out a solitaire game, and that worked, too.

“I was just dumbfounded that, yes, sure enough, this sophisticated video game came up,” said Patton, 59, a retired broadcast journalist from the Portland metropolitan area, in Oregon.

Playing While Driving  . . . or Surf the ‘Net!

Video games and solitaire are quite bad enough as activities to enjoy while driving with the aid of your touch-screen dashboard, but in fact, as Patton discovered, it was also possible for him to surf the internet. Talk about distracted driving!

Now Patton has nothing against Tesla. He loves his car. He’s just worried. “Somebody’s going to get killed,” he said. “It’s absolutely insane.”

And that’s the reason Patton went ahead and filed a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Patton’s complaint states that the “NHTSA needs to prohibit all live video in the front seat and all live interactive web browsing while the car is in motion. Creating a dangerous distraction for the driver is recklessly negligent.”

Design Defect=Safety Hazard

The NHTSA later confirmed to the New York Times, that it is looking into the matter. “We are aware of driver concerns and are discussing the feature with the manufacturer,” responded a NHTSA spokeswoman by email. “The Vehicle Safety Act prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles with design defects posing unreasonable risks to safety.”

Tesla has yet to respond to an Associated Press request for further information or comment on this playing while driving “feature.” But the fact that one can play a video game or surf the ‘net while driving shows how far away we are from perfecting the technology. Those of us who are old enough to remember when microwaves were new, may remember all the faulty models that leaked radiation all over your kitchen (and you). It takes time to take out the kinks. And when you’re behind the wheel, those kinks are deadly.

Hard to See Controls

But is it really a “kink?” The gaming and internet options have been baked into the mechanics. How did someone not see how dangerous a feature this is? This is simply mindboggling to contemplate. Not to mention that, according to Patton, the game takes up some two-thirds of the touch screen, making it more difficult to see warnings and controls such as for the windshield defrosters when playing while driving.

While looking into the matter, Patton discovered that it used to be drivers could only play games while in park. Drivers enjoyed playing as they waited for their batteries to charge. Executive Director Jason Levine, of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety believes that the current iteration of the games feature is arguably against the law. He also says the NHTSA has the authority to order a recall. This would likely end the reign of Tesla’s “playing while driving” feature.



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