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Driving down the road while playing a video game on the center console's touchscreen? No wonder auto safety regulators were upset!
The safety issue came to light when a Portland, Oregon owner discovered that he could play video games while his Tesla was moving. He filed a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the agency promptly began investigating.
Tesla's Passenger Play software update
NHTSA had serious concerns about distracted drivers paying more attention to their gameplay than to what was going on around them on the road.
That's why they threatened to launch a formal investigation into Tesla's role in potential distracted driving-related incidents. In response to the regulators' demands, Tesla showed some common sense and disabled gaming while its cars are in motion.
According to NPR, Tesla announced a software update to disable gameplay in a moving vehicle just one day after NHTSA made known its plan for a formal inquiry.
The addition to the regularly scheduled software update was sent over the internet and locks the feature so that it will no longer work when the vehicle is moving. The Tesla holiday software update went out on December 22nd and 23rd.
In a statement from NHTSA, a spokesperson said that auto safety regulators discuss infotainment screens regularly with all automakers. When discussing the system with Tesla, their focus was on the potential dangers of drivers being able to play games while their vehicles were in motion.
Touchscreen gaming is a dangerous distraction
The regulatory agency is particularly interested in how carmakers guard against the use (or misuse!) of convenience technology like touchscreens.
These devices are highly likely to contribute to distracted driving when drivers have their eyes and hands on the device rather than the road and steering wheel. The more sophisticated the device and the more it can do, the more likelihood of a distracted driver.
Being able to actually play games on the touchscreen while driving the car adds an entirely different level of danger to distracted driving!
Is NHTSA satisfied with Tesla's solution?
Even after the update, NHTSA intends to continue its most recent investigation into Tesla. One factor the safety regulators find concerning is Tesla's reluctance to issue recalls for vehicle software problems. It's NHTSA's position that a formal recall is warranted, especially for safety-related software updates.
Gameplay has been available on Tesla vehicles for several years. Up until late 2020, it was only enabled when the vehicle was in park. With the advent of Passenger Play in December of 2020, drivers could play even when their vehicle was in motion.
The formal NHTSA probe covers Tesla models S, X, Y, and 3. That's approximately 580,000 vehicles from model years 2017 through 2022.
Safety should always be a driver's first priority
Anything that takes your eyes, hands, or mind off the task at hand puts you and others at risk when you're behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. Since playing a video game involves all three forms of distraction, it's a serious threat on the road.
Although some drivers might be upset about no longer having the option of gaming while driving, most other drivers are probably glad they can't!
Something else to be very glad about is getting a great price on auto insurance. When you trust the Jerry app to help you find the best insurance at the best price, you'll know you're in safe hands.
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With great insurance from Jerry, you're sure to feel more peace of mind on the road no matter what kind of vehicle you drive!