ALL NEWS

US probes potential of drivers playing video games in Teslas

Dec 22, 2021, 2:42 PM | Updated: 2:44 pm
FILE - Vince Patton, a new Tesla owner, demonstrates on Dec. 8, 2021, on a closed course in Portlan...
FILE - Vince Patton, a new Tesla owner, demonstrates on Dec. 8, 2021, on a closed course in Portland, Ore., how he can play video games on the vehicle's console while driving. The U.S. has opened a formal investigation into a report that Tesla vehicles allow people to play video games on a center touch screen while they are driving. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus, File)
(AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus, File)

ATHENS, Ohio (AP) — The U.S. has opened a formal investigation into the potential for Tesla drivers to play video games on a center touch screen while the vehicle is in motion.

In a document posted Wednesday on its website, the agency says the feature, called “Passenger Play,” may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash.

“To date, the agency has received one owner complaint describing the gameplay functionality and has confirmed that this capability has been available since December 2020 in Tesla “Passenger Play”-equipped vehicles,” a NHTSA spokesman said in an email.

“Before this time, enabling gameplay was only possible when the vehicle was in park.”

The probe, which covers all four Tesla models, the S, X, Y and 3, was opened “to evaluate the driver distraction potential of Tesla ‘Passenger Play’ while the vehicle is being driven.” Investigators “will evaluate aspects of the feature, including the frequency and use scenarios of Tesla “Passenger Play.”‘

The probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers about 580,000 electric cars and SUVs from model years 2017 through 2022.

The NHTSA documents do not list any crashes or injuries caused by the problem.

An investigation can lead to a recall. A message was left early Wednesday seeking comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations department.

Tesla owner Vince Patton, who lives near Portland, Oregon, filed the complaint with the agency last month. In August, he was watching a YouTube video of a Tesla owner who discovered that he could now play a video game on his touch-screen while the vehicle is moving.

Curious to see for himself, Patton drove his own 2021 Tesla Model 3 to an empty community college parking lot, activated a game called “Sky Force Reloaded” from a menu and did a few loops.

“I was just dumbfounded that, yes, sure enough, this sophisticated video game came up,” said Patton, a 59-year-old retired broadcast journalist who lives near Portland, Oregon.

He tried Solitaire, too, and was able to activate that game while driving. Later, he found he could browse the internet while his car was moving.

Patton, who loves his car and says he has nothing against Tesla, worries that drivers will play games and become dangerously distracted.

“Somebody’s going to get killed,” he said. “It’s absolutely insane.”

So he filed the complaint early last month.

“NHTSA needs to prohibit all live video in the front seat and all live interactive web browsing while the car is in motion,” Patton wrote in his complaint. “Creating a dangerous distraction for the driver is recklessly negligent.”

Earlier in December, Mercedes-Benz issued a recall for a similar issue caused by a computer configuration error, raising questions about whether Tesla was being allowed to do something that other automakers are not. Most automakers disable front touch screens while vehicles are moving.

In the Mercedes case, drivers could browse the internet or watch television while the cars were moving. The automaker said it intended to disable the features while the cars are in motion. The issue was corrected by updating a Mercedes server.

NHTSA already is investigating why Tesla’s “Autopilot” partially automated driving system keeps crashing into stopped emergency vehicles, and it has inquired about why Tesla didn’t file recall documents when it did an over-the-air internet update in an effort to address the safety problem. It’s also looking into the performance of Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” software after getting a complaint that it nearly caused a crash.

Tesla says neither system can drive vehicles and that drivers must be ready to intervene at all times.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s office is being sued after what started with a Snapchat request in...
Hugo Rikard-Bell

Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office being sued after former cadet reports abuse

A former Salt Lake County Sheriff deputy and academy instructor allegedly committed numerous sexual assaults against a former cadet.
24 hours ago
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks during an election day canvass launch on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 20...
The Associated Press

Democratic Sen. Warnock wins Georgia runoff against Walker

The Associated Press has projected Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock as the winner of the Georgia runoff election.
24 hours ago
Salt Lake Express...
Mark Jones

Salt Lake Express announces new route to Reno, Nevada

Salt Lake Express is now offering service to Reno, Nevada. The route began Dec. 1 after months of working with the Nevada Department of Transportation.
24 hours ago
The Utah Department of Public Safety issued an apology to the family of a woman who was allegedly r...
Thomas Haraldsen

DPS offers apology to family of rape victim from more than 50 years ago

The Utah Department of Public Safety issued an apology to the family of a woman who was allegedly raped by a UHP officer over 50 years ago.
24 hours ago
The Salt Lake City Police Department announced its response times for the month of November improve...
Mark Jones

Salt Lake City Police announce response times for November

The Salt Lake City Police Department announced its response times for the month of November improved by 12 minutes and 15 seconds compared to November 2021. 
24 hours ago
Gardening writer Jeff Lowenfels identifies five classic holiday plants: paperwhites, poinsettias, C...
JEFF LOWENFELS Associated Press

5 plants that say `holiday season,’ and how to care for them

Gardening writer Jeff Lowenfels identifies five plants that are holiday classics: paperwhites, poinsettias, Christmas trees, amaryllis and Christmas cactus.
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
US probes potential of drivers playing video games in Teslas