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U.S. opens investigation into 5,80,000 Tesla vehicles over game feature

Tesla infotainment system includes graphics-intensive Tesla Arcade games like Beach Buggy Racing 2, Cuphead and Stardew Valley.

Tesla infotainment system includes graphics-intensive Tesla Arcade games like Beach Buggy Racing 2, Cuphead and Stardew Valley.

U.S auto safety regulators said Wednesday they have opened a formal safety investigation into 5,80,000 Tesla vehicles sold since 2017 over the automaker's decision to allow games to be played on the front centre touchscreen.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said its preliminary evaluation covers various 2017-2022 Tesla Model 3, S, X, and Y vehicles. This functionality, referred to as “Passenger Play,” "may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash," the agency said .

NHTSA said it has "confirmed that this capability has been available since December 2020 in Tesla 'Passenger Play'-equipped vehicles." Before then, the game feature "was enabled only when the vehicle was in Park."

Tesla did not immediately comment.

NHTSA said it would "evaluate aspects of the feature, including the frequency and use scenarios of Tesla 'Passenger Play'."

Also Read | U.S. NTSB closes probe into fatal Tesla 2020 California crash

Earlier this month, the New York Times highlighted the game feature, prompting NHTSA to say it was in discussions with Tesla regarding it.

The agency noted earlier in December that distracted driving accounts for a significant number of U.S. road deaths - 3,142 in 2019 alone. Safety advocates have said official figures underestimate the problem because not all drivers involved in crashes later admit they were distracted.

The Times said the Tesla update added three games - Solitaire, a jet fighter and conquest strategy scenario - and said that vehicles have warnings reading: "Playing while the car is in motion is only for passengers."

The paper said the game feature asks for confirmation that the player is a passenger, though a driver could still play simply by pressing a button.

In 2013, NHTSA issued guidelines to encourage automakers "to factor safety and driver distraction-prevention into their designs and adoption of infotainment devices in vehicles."

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The guidelines "recommend that in-vehicle devices be designed so that they cannot be used by the driver to perform inherently distracting secondary tasks while driving," the agency said.

The agency in August opened a safety investigation into 765,000 Tesla vehicles over its driver-assistance system Autopilot after a series of crashes involving the system and parked emergency vehicles.

A preliminary evaluation is a first step before NHTSA decides whether to upgrade a probe to an engineering analysis, which must happen before the agency can demand a recall.

NHTSA said it received a complaint in November about the game feature from a Tesla Model 3 driver in Oregon, who said: "Creating a dangerous distraction for the driver is recklessly negligent."

Also Read | Mercedes gets nod to use hands-free driving system in Germany

On Nov. 29, Daimler's Mercedes-Benz recalled 227 U.S. vehicles - 2021 model year S580, 2022 EQS450, EQS580, and S500 -- because the vehicle infotainment systems "might allow activation of the television and internet display while driving, causing a distraction for the driver."


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Printable version | May 17, 2022 11:15:43 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/us-opens-investigation-into-580000-tesla-vehicles-over-game-feature/article38017919.ece