U.S. Investigates Tesla Over Video Game Feature and Potential for Distracted Driving

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Investigation Looks at Whether Tesla Drivers Can Play Video Games on Roadways

Investigation Looks at Whether Tesla Drivers Can Play Video Games on Roadways

Dec 23, 2021

A new formal investigation into electric automaker Tesla has been launched by the U.S. Government. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating whether certain Tesla vehicles allow drivers to play video games on a center console touchscreen while on the road. In a document posted online, the NHTSA said the Tesla feature, “Passenger Play,” could potentially lead to distracted driving car accidents.

The NHTSA’s investigation includes a reported 580,000 Tesla electric vehicles – cars and SUVs – from model years 2017 through 2022, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Newsweek reported that the NHTSA’s Tesla video game investigation could lead to a recall. The media outlet reached out to Tesla Wednesday seeking comment but did not receive a response. Tesla has reportedly disbanded its media relations department.

In an email to Newsweek, the NHTSA confirmed that one Tesla owner had filed a complaint over the “Passenger Play” gaming feature. Said Tesla owner expressed concern over the fact that the touchscreen video game system can be accessed while vehicles are in motion. Newsweek also confirmed that the NHTSA concluded the “Passenger Play” feature has only been available in equipped Tesla vehicles since December 2020.

Before this time, enabling gameplay was only possible when the vehicle was in park,” an NHTSA spokesman told Newsweek.

Tesla owner Vince Patton of Portland, Oregon, has been confirmed to be the individual responsible for making the “Passenger Play” complaint to the NHTSA. The complaint was reportedly filed in November.

Newsweek confirmed that Patton was watching a YouTube video of a Tesla owner who had discovered that he was now able to play a video game on his touchscreen while the vehicle was in motion.

Intrigued, Patton reportedly drove his Tesla Model 3 to an empty parking lot, activated the “Sky Force Reloaded” video game from a menu on his center touchscreen, and drove the car while simultaneously accessing the feature.

“I was just dumbfounded that, yes, sure enough, this sophisticated video game came up,” Patton said to Newsweek. He also played Solitaire while driving his Tesla in the empty parking lot, later discovering that he could actually browse the internet while the vehicle was moving.

Patton told Newsweek that he loves his Model 3 and has nothing against Tesla. But he also noted that he is worried about distracted driving car accidents when drivers utilize the “Passenger Play” gaming feature on roadways.

Somebody’s going to get killed,” he said. “It’s absolutely insane.”

US government is investigating Tesla for allowing drivers to play video games

Patton’s November complaint reportedly stated:

NHTSA needs to prohibit all live video in the front seat and all live interactive web browsing while the car is in motion… Creating a dangerous distraction for the driver is recklessly negligent.

Earlier this month, Mercedes-Benz discovered that, as a result of a computer configuration error, drivers could actually browse the internet or watch television while vehicles were moving. The car manufacturer promptly issued a recall. Mercedes-Benz later confirmed that it had intended to disable such features while cars were in motion, and the issue was reportedly corrected after the company’s server was updated.

Newsweek reported that the NHTSA is also looking into the functionality of Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” software feature after receiving a complaint that it nearly caused a motor vehicle crash.

Tesla has indicated that neither the “Autopilot” or “Full Self-Driving” systems are able to drive vehicles without human aid, and that drivers must be able to “intervene at all times,” according to the Newsweek report.

Distracted Driving Car Accidents

The NHTSA’s website does not reference any car accidents or injuries attributed to Tesla’s “Passenger Play” video game feature. However, the NHTSA does note that distracted driving led to 3,142 car accident deaths in 2019.

The government entity defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system – anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.

As we’ve noted in previous blogs, texting and driving is considered to be one of the most dangerous form of distracted driving. The NHTSA confirms that sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. When traveling at 55 miles per hour, that equates to driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

Accordingly, one can reasonably infer how long a Tesla driver’s eyes would be taken off the road when playing a video game behind the wheel.

Some other common types of distracted driving include:

For Dordulian Law Group’s comprehensive list of distracted driving statistics, click here.

Filing a Distracted Driving Car Accident Lawsuit

If you’ve been injured in a distracted driving car accident – whether by a Tesla driver playing a video game or a driver reading a text – you may be entitled to financial compensation for various types of damages. A distracted driving car accident civil lawsuit can be a means of obtaining those damages and helping you make a full recovery.

Some common damages that may be available through a distracted driving car accident claim include:

  • Hospital expenses
  • Medical care expenses
  • Emotional trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Property damage

If you experienced a car accident incident, don’t wait to file a claim. Contact our expert attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

To speak to a distracted driving car accident lawyer from Dordulian Law Group (DLG), contact us today at 818-322-4056. Out consultations are always free and confidential, and there’s never any fee until we’ve successfully recovered a maximum financial damages award for your claim.

DLG has helped injured victims like you secure more than $100,000,000 while maintaining a 98% success record.

Founded by former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian, DLG is California’s leading car accident firm with more than 25 years of experience helping injured victims obtain the justice they deserve.


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