Tesla is formally under investigation by the US government over video games. The electric car manufacturer has drawn the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because its vehicles currently allow occupants to play video games on their infotainment screens while the vehicles are in motion. NHTSA says this ability could "distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash."
The probe covers around 580,000 Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Model Y EVs with this Passenger Play function. Tesla had previously added various video games to its center touchscreen but only made them playable when the vehicle was in Park. The ability to play games while on the move reportedly changed sometime in December, 2020, but it's unclear why the change was made.
Passenger Play does include a so-called "lawyer screen" with an interstitial warning that states "playing while the car is in motion is only for passengers." The screen requires a confirmation press to have access to the games, but the on-screen button can be pressed by passenger or driver.
The probe comes in the wake of a Dec. 8 story in the New York Times that investigated the concern. NHTSA reportedly engaged Tesla as soon as the following day.
Tesla added new gaming functions to its infotainment screen as recently as Tuesday, when its annual holiday over the air update became available for download.
By contrast, earlier this December, Mercedes-Benz recalled 227 examples of its new EQS electric sedans, as well as select S-Class models for similar behavior. The German automaker's luxury sedans inadvertently allowed some vehicles to display internet or TV programming on its MBUX infotainment systems while in motion due to a software problem. The automaker self-reported the issue to NHTSA and a recall ensued.
Tesla is also currently under federal investigation for its Autopilot driver assist system. In August, NHTSA launched the probe to determine whether the Level 2 system has a safety issue after at least 11 crashes into stationary emergency vehicles had been reported.
Tesla did not immediately return Roadshow's request for comment on this matter. The automaker no longer operates a PR department to field such inquiries.