The federal government’s top auto safety regulator announced on Wednesday that it had begun testing a new feature in Tesla cars Allow drivers to play video games on a large touchscreen while driving.
“We are aware of the concerns of the drivers and are discussing the function with the manufacturer,” said a statement from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The video game feature was included in a software update Tesla released in the summer. The agency made its statement after the New York Times reported that auto experts were concerned about the games could pose a safety risk by distracting the driver.
The news of the investigation by the security agency was first received from. reported Bloomberg news.
Tesla has offered video games on its touchscreens for several years, which dominate the dashboards of its cars and are used to control many aspects of the vehicles. But the original games could only be played while the car was in the park. An over-the-air update this summer added Solitaire and two more games that could be played by a driver or a passenger in full sight of the driver, raising questions about safety and the distraction of drivers from the road.
“Distraction-related accidents are a problem, especially with vehicles that are equipped with a number of comfort technologies such as entertainment screens,” said the security agency. “The Vehicle Safety Act prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles with design defects that pose an unreasonable safety risk.”
Some safety experts have criticized Tesla’s autopilot system, which can self-steer, slow down and accelerate a car and has few safety precautions to ensure drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel and their eyes on the road. According to data from the safety authority, at least 12 road deaths have occurred since 2016 in which Tesla vehicles were operated in autopilot mode and where hands-free calling and inattentiveness by the driver were cited as the likely causes.
Tesla seemed aware that the new games could be played while the car is in motion. A warning will appear on the screen before the game starts saying, “Solitaire is for everyone, but gaming while driving is only for passengers.” The system asks for confirmation that the person trying to play the game is a passenger is, but nothing prevents drivers from clicking the button and starting a game.
The company did not respond to a request for comment.