When Tesla expanded its growing list of dashboard touchscreen games last winter, the update inexplicably allowed drivers to play them while the electric car was in motion. Almost a year later, the United States government is finally asking the company why.
“We are aware of driver concerns and are discussing the feature with the manufacturer,” the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told Bloomberg today. “The Vehicle Safety Act prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles with design defects posing unreasonable risks to safety.”
This news comes just a day after reporting by The New York Times brought the issue to light. Since the release of the 2020.48.26 update in December 2020, three games — Solitaire, The Battle of Polytopia, and Sky Force Reloaded, the latter of which arrived in a separate update in July 2021 — have allowed users to play while the Tesla was in motion.
As noted by The New York Times, Tesla appears to be aware of the issue. Upon starting Solitaire, for example, a pop-up message warns that “playing while the car is in motion is only for passengers” but the operating system does nothing to check who’s playing the card game after the user confirms they aren’t driving. It’s basically working on the honour system, like age-restricted websites that let visitors enter a fake birthday.
Add this to the constant, sometimes deadly problems with Tesla’s autopilot system, and it really starts to feel like these games are a disaster waiting to happen. According to the NHTSA, over 3,000 Americans lost their lives in 2019 due to distracted driving.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk previously boasted about the gaming capabilities of his electric cars, claiming during a presentation over the summer that they were capable of playing Cyberpunk 2077 thanks to “PlayStation 5-level” specs.
“If you think about a future where the car is often in autopilot or self-driving mode, then entertainment is going to become increasingly important,” Musk explained. “You’re going to want to watch movies, play games, use the internet…things you want to do if you’re not driving.”