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Tesla drivers can play video games on the center console even when the car is moving

This seems unwise…

stardew valley playing on tesla screen

UPDATE: 12/22/2021 5:49 PM ET: The US government is investigating Tesla over its car’s video games. However, the investigation doesn’t focus on the games themselves but on how they are played, specifically when the car is in motion. Read more here. The original story follows below.

It seems that Tesla has another safety snafu on its hands. The New York Times reports that the center console can be used to play games by the driver while the vehicle is in motion. That’s bad news and goes against the longstanding National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines for designing in-car devices.

The NYT noticed some YouTube videos from earlier this year that showed video games could be accessed while the Tesla was in drive. Previously, the games would only load when the vehicle was in park.

The update enabling in-motion gaming came this summer, and the NYT says it is trivial for the driver to override any safety precautions.

There are some doubts over the assertions in the NYT piece, with Tesla Twitter likening it to a “hit piece.” That’s partly because Tesla recently enabled the internal camera for driver attention monitoring, reminding them to keep their eyes on the road.

That said, it doesn’t appear that there is any system stopping the driver from starting games when the car isn’t in Park. The NHTSA is in discussions with Tesla about the feature, citing the Vehicle Safety Act, which “prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles with design defects posing unreasonable risks to safety.”

Eyes on the road

The thing is, whatever this debate ends up being, state laws trump them because, well, they’re laws. In 2014, the Consumer Electronics Association gathered the legislation around “video screen” use in moving vehicles.

They found 34 states and the District of Columbia with some sort of law against using “television” screens visible to the driver. For example, California restricts it to any device that displays a video signal. The only screen exemptions are GPS navigation, vehicle status displays, and camera displays. None of these should be hindering the driver’s line of sight.

tesla car showing atari games on screen
Image: Teslatari

Whether the driver is playing or not, it does seem that these laws already prohibit using the game system in a Tesla while the vehicle is in motion. Tesla’s legal team is likely to know this, as the software warns that Tesla Arcade is only for passengers while the car is in motion. It even tells the user to “Please check local laws prior to playing.”

We’re not sure why Tesla allows any non-driving-information use of the infotainment center when the vehicle is in motion. Seems like a recipe for litigation to me.

UPDATE: 12/22/2021 5:49 PM ET: The US government is investigating Tesla over its car’s video games. However, the investigation doesn’t focus on the games themselves but on how they are played, specifically when the car is in motion. Read more here.

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