Some day, perhaps not too many years from now, we’ll be able to plug a destination into a car’s nav screen and game away an entire journey. But in December 2021 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided that day was still some way off.
That’s the date the NHTSA opened an investigation into Tesla’s Passenger Play feature that allowed video games to be played on an EV’s infotainment screen even when the cars were on the move.
Now, eighteen months later, the NHTSA has announced it’s closing that investigation and won’t be demanding a recall of 580,000 Tesla vehicles affected by the issue. But it made clear that doing so shouldn’t be taken as an indication that no safety-related defect exists. “Furthermore, it does not foreclose the agency from taking further action, if warranted,” it added.
The NHTSA’s decision not to issue a recall must have been strongly influenced by Tesla’s move to stop the playing of games on the move a month after the NHTSA opened its investigation. It disabled the feature via an over-air software update and reported a 97 percent completion rate within a month of making the change.
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Tesla reported no collisions to the NHTSA that might have involved the use of Passenger Play during the period it was available. But the agency said that data showed one third of trips during that period were of moving cars with Passenger Play in use, which proved how important it was that such features were either locked out or came with on-screen disclaimers. The NHTSA said that its own analysis of Tesla’s data “produced significant concerns about driver distraction during the time that it was available.”
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But that’s no longer a major concern for Tesla or the NHTSA, who are both enmeshed in another potentially far bigger safety-related investigation about Tesla’s Autopilot system and its role in Tesla cars crashing into parked emergency vehicles.