Update: According to the Associated Press, Tesla will issue a software update effectively rolling back the Passenger Play feature on its vehicles. This will require the vehicle to be fully stopped before any games can be played on the infotainment screen.
For the second time this year, Tesla is a company of interest with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This time, officials are taking a close look at the Passenger Play feature that's available in over half a million Tesla vehicles. Fun video games playable in Tesla infotainment systems are nothing new, but Passenger Play can be activated while the car is moving. You probably see where this is going.
The feature was added last year according to an NHTSA report, and is presently available on 580,000 Tesla vehicles going back to 2017. All current models are included in the investigation, which will determine whether or not playing video games while driving presents a distraction to the driver. That sounds like the biggest no-brainer of the century, but it's important to note that the NHTSA report doesn't mention anything about drivers playing games. Since the system is called Passenger Play, presumably the passenger is having all the fun. But could that alone be a distraction to the driver?
Gallery: 2021 Tesla Model S
As for drivers, our colleagues at InsideEVs point out that engaging Passenger Play literally involves pressing a digital button on the Tesla's touchscreen that confirms you're a passenger. It's certainly something the driver can do quite easily, and it's not like we haven't seen videos of people bypassing safety features not just on Tesla vehicles, but in others as well. At least one Tesla driver was concerned about possible distractions from gaming while in motion, as that's what led the NHTSA to open the investigation.
Whether or not the investigation leads to a rollback that removes Passenger Play functionality is obviously unknown at this point. Given how easy it is for the driver to engage the system, it seems some kind of action is likely, perhaps the implementation of additional systems to confirm a passenger is actually in the car.
In any case, we can't believe we have to say this but don't play freaking video games while you're driving a car.