US agency investigates reports Tesla owners can play videogames while driving

David Murphy

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a formal investigation into a report that claims owners of Tesla vehicles are able to play video games on the car’s centre-mounted display while driving, the Guardian reports.

The gameplay is enabled by a feature called ‘Passenger Play’. In a document posted online yesterday, the agency’s office of defects investigation said the option to play while driving had been available since December 2020. Before that date, games could only be played while vehicle was in ‘park’ mode. In the document, the agency says the feature may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash.

The investigation covers around 580,000 electric cars and SUVs released between 2017 to the present day. It covers all four Tesla models, the S, X, Y and 3, and was opened “to evaluate the driver distraction potential of Tesla ‘Passenger Play’ while the vehicle is being driven”. It follows a complaint to the agency that Teslas equipped with “gameplay functionality” allow games to be played by the driver while in motion. Investigators “will evaluate aspects of the feature, including the frequency and use scenarios of Tesla ‘Passenger Play’”. If the agency finds the case proven, it would lead to a recall of the models in question.

According to the Guardian report, the complaint was filed by a Tesla owner named Vince Patton, who was alerted to the issue after seeing a YouTube video of a Tesla owner who discovered that he could play a video game on his touch-screen while the vehicle was moving. He took his Tesla to a deserted parking lot, loaded up a game called ‘Sky Force Reloaded’ and was “dumbfounded” to find he could play it while driving the car. He also found he could browse the internet while driving his Tesla.

“Somebody’s going to get killed. It’s absolutely insane,” he told the Guardian.