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Tesla is being investigated for allowing drivers to play video games while driving

The touchscreen's gaming apps can be accessed while the vehicle is in motion

Later Tesla models have preinstalled games in their touchscreens. PHOTO FROM TESLA

A few days ago, we wrote how Mercedes-Benz has become the first manufacturer in the world to sell a self-driving car where, in certain circumstances, drivers are allowed to do other things such as checking their phone or playing games while behind the wheel. The ability to do so depends on a very specific technical and regulatory framework that isn’t widely available yet. It certainly isn’t enabled in any Tesla cars at the moment, which is why the American carmaker is seemingly in hot water again.

In this Associated Press report, a Tesla owner from Oregon filed an official complaint against the manufacturer with the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration when he noticed that he could play games on the car’s huge touchscreen while driving. The agency has officially acknowledged this report and is now investigating if owners of Elon Musk’s EVs are indeed able to play games or watch movies while the car is driving, an activity that would be in breach of current regulations.

The legal framework for allowing mobile-phone use while driving is still not widespread. PHOTO FROM PIXABAY

The owner in question apparently saw someone on YouTube talk about being able to play a game in a Tesla while driving and seemingly decided to try it out for himself. A few laps of an empty car park later and he had confirmed that he could indeed indulge in a bit of Sky Force Reloaded gameplay while driving. He was apparently also able to surf the web from the car while cruising around. The NHTSA has now opened a formal investigation into the incident where it will take a look at Model S, Model X, Model Y and Model 3 units that have the “Passenger Play” feature installed.

The primary purpose of the probe is to see if the feature, which apparently has been able to facilitate playing games and videos while driving since December 2020, is indeed dangerous to drivers and may present a distraction. So far, the agency has not listed any crashes or other incidents that may have happened because of this.

This isn’t the first time that Tesla has attracted criticism or calls the regulator. Not too long ago, its self-driving claims were called into question, and the ease with which its Autopilot can seemingly be fooled has also raised eyebrows in the past. No doubt the firm will weather this storm as well and, in a few years, playing games or browsing the web while sitting behind the wheel will very likely not only be legal but totally normal.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.