(Photo: Tesla)The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is opening an investigation into Tesla drivers’ newfound ability to play video games via the dashboard while driving.
According to a slew of claims originally reported by the New York Times, Tesla vehicles currently allow video games to be played on their sizable touchscreen infotainment systems while said vehicles are in motion. To the average person, this is an obvious safety risk; texting while driving is widely seen as dangerous enough to outlaw, let alone gaming while driving.
But the NHTSA has extra reason to worry. Tesla drivers who choose to play games while driving likely (hopefully?) use full self-driving (FSD), or “autopilot,” to do so. MIT found in September that drivers become dangerously inattentive while relying on FSD, with a significant portion of driver glances directed toward the center stack, where Teslas’ infotainment systems lie. Regardless of whether drivers are letting their vehicles direct themselves while they play Millipede or Cuphead, they’re largely ignoring the road ahead.
It’s currently unclear whether Tesla considers the ability to game and drive to be a feature or a bug. Though the company hasn’t yet come out and said whether this was programmed intentionally, its infotainment systems usually require that a vehicle is parked in order to operate. Netflix and Hulu, for example, won’t play until that requirement is met; even being stopped while in drive isn’t sufficient. But a recent software update from earlier this year may offer some clues: the update made gaming while driving possible, and while a disclaimer warns that the “use of Tesla Arcade while the vehicle in motion is only for passengers,” the driver has equal reign over what happens on the screen. All they have to do is tap a button alleging that they’re a passenger.
As for what happens next, the NHTSA offered a bit of insight to Bloomberg in a statement: “NHTSA guidelines specify a test method to evaluate whether a task interferes with driver attention, rendering it unsuitable for a driver to perform while driving. If a task does not meet the acceptance criteria, the NHTSA Guidelines recommend that the task be made inaccessible for performance by the driver while driving.”
If the ability to game and drive truly was intentional on Tesla’s part, it wouldn’t be the first time the company has pushed the envelope in terms of safety. CEO Elon Musk publicly stated at a launch event in June that in-vehicle entertainment is a priority for the company as it embraces the “the future of the car,” but now it’s up to the NHTSA to decide how far is too …….