Tesla, as we wrote last week, was in the news after Tesla Model 3 owner Vince Patton discovered that drivers could play games on the in-car touchscreen while driving. Patton created a bit of a hubbub when he contacted the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to register a complaint. While the gaming feature is meant for passengers, Patton learned that in practice, there was no impediment to drivers playing while driving. The playing while driving feature was an obvious glitch that endangers drivers, passengers, and others on the road.
Tesla has now agreed to modify its problematic Passenger Play feature deemed so dangerous by Patton, and subsequent to his complaint, by the NHTSA. Prompted by the NHTSA investigation, Tesla said that a remote software update would cause the feature to be disabled while driving or in motion. The car firm, headed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, had received an onslaught of criticism about the dangerous gaming while driving feature. The fact is, it took a while for Tesla to respond to inquiries from the NHTSA. One wonders why this is so.
Gaming Feature to be “Locked and Unusable”
After a seemingly lengthy period of Tesla refraining from any comment on the subject, the New York Times at last reported that Tesla had initiated contact with the NHTSA directly. The NY Times quoted Tesla as follows, “Passenger Play will now be locked and unusable when the vehicle is in motion.”
Tesla, however, has not issued a formal statement regarding the glitch.
Regarding its inquiry the NHTSA said that Passenger Play “may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash.”
Tesla Gaming Feature: Major Oops
One thing is sure: the Tesla playing while driving feature was not created by design. It’s true, however, that the feature is a major “oops.” A would-be player had to confirm that they were a passenger, but there was nothing to prevent drivers from falsely affirming that this was the case. Earlier Tesla models had disabled the gaming feature while the car was moving. The feature, however, was modified in December 2020, when it was now possible to play games or surf the internet in a moving Tesla vehicle.
In the complaint filed by Vince Patton with the NHTSA, the feature change was described as “recklessly negligent.”
Upon opening its inquiry, the NHTSA made note that the feature might “distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash.”
Distracted Driving Issue
The NHTSA guidelines stipulate that all in-car devices must be disabled in such a way that the driver cannot use them to “perform inherently distracting secondary tasks while driving.”
Distracted driving in 2019 was responsible for 3,142 road deaths, said the NHTSA. The gaming while driving feature, meanwhile, is not the only flaw to be discovered in Tesla cars. Back in August, the NHTSA launched an investigation into the Tesla Autopilot system after a dozen cars employing the feature collided with parked emergency vehicles. There have also been other accidents associated with the autopilot system that are currently under review.