A recent software update to Tesla’s vehicles reportedly allows drivers to launch games such as Solitaire on their dashboards without the need for the car to be in ‘Park’.
Tesla is now facing scrutiny from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for implementing a potentially life-threatening feature.
“We are aware of driver concerns and are discussing the feature with the manufacturer,” the agency said in a statement. “The Vehicle Safety Act prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles with design defects posing unreasonable risks to safety.”
According to NHTSA guidelines, in-vehicle devices must be designed so that they cannot allow the driver to perform distracting secondary tasks while on the road. The agency provided statistics, showing that distracted driving claimed over 3,000 lives in 2019.
Tesla’s electric vehicles have long featured games on the central touchscreen, however, before the recent update they were only playable while the vehicle was stationary. The recent update was presumably intended to allow passengers to play the games while on the move and the system even asks for confirmation before launching the games. However there doesn’t seem to be a way for the vehicle to tell who is actually playing the game, so, in effect, the driver can simply press ‘I AM A PASSENGER’ and throw down a round of cards while zipping down the highway at 100 miles per hour.
While 60 people have so far filed a complaint over the issue, Tesla has yet to comment on the matter. However, this isn’t the first time the electric vehicle manufacturer has faced scrutiny for its on-board features. Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ assist system, which, despite the name, doesn’t make the vehicle fully autonomous, has drawn the attention of the US government. It recently launched an investigation into incidents involving Tesla cars operating on Autopilot that have crashed into stationary emergency vehicles.