Tesla under investigation for 'Passenger Play' gaming feature

The NHTSA is looking into how games being played on the infotainment system while the car's moving may distract drivers.


Tesla came under fire earlier this month following reports that certain games are playable on dashboard infotainment systems while an EV is in motion. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now investigating Tesla over the so-called "Passenger Play" function.

The preliminary evaluation from the agency's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) covers around 580,000 Model 3, S, X and Y vehicles sold since 2017. While the feature prompts players to acknowledge they're a passenger before they start a game, the NHTSA said Passenger Play "may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash."

A report from the New York Times indicated that an update Tesla rolled out in the summer made three games playable while a car is moving. Before then, Passenger Play was only available when the EV was in park. The NHTSA told Engadget earlier in December that it was speaking to Tesla about the feature.

The ODI said the preliminary evaluation will assess the driver distraction potential of Passenger Play while the EV is moving. It will look into various aspects of Passenger Play, including use scenarios and how often it's used.

In announcing the investigation, the NHTSA cited a report that was filed with the agency in August. "Tesla is now making interactive video games and live internet web searching possible on the main front seat display while the car is driving," the complaint reads. "Why is a manufacturer allowed to create an inherently distracting live video which takes over 2/3 of the screen which the driver relies on for all vehicle information? Creating a dangerous distraction for the driver is recklessly negligent."

Tesla didn't respond to a request for comment from Reuters. The company no longer has a PR department.