New Tesla Safety Issue: Drivers Can Play Video Games in Moving Cars

Shortly after purchasing a Tesla Model 3 this summer, Vince Patton saw a YouTube sample highlighting a feature that surprised him: thre...


Shortly after purchasing a Tesla Model 3 this summer, Vince Patton saw a YouTube sample highlighting a feature that surprised him: three video games that can be played on the large touchscreen mounted in front of the dashboard – while driving on the road.

“I sure thought it couldn’t be right,” Mr. Patton, a retiree from Lake Oswego, Ore.

But in a parking lot he gave it a try and was able to play a game of solitaire on the moving Model 3. “I only did it for about five seconds and then I turned it off,” he said. “I am amazed. To me, it just seems inherently dangerous.

The automaker added the games in a live software update that was sent to most of its cars this summer. They can be played by a driver or by a passenger in full view of the driver, raising new questions about whether Tesla compromises safety as it rushes to add new technology and features to its cars.

“It’s a big concern if this plays into the driver’s view for sure,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which coordinates the state’s efforts to promote safe driving.

Tesla’s autopilot system, which can steer, slow down and accelerate a car on its own, has for several years faces criticism from security experts because it allows drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel for long periods of time, even if they are not supposed to. And there’s a lack of an effective way to make sure drivers keep their eyes on the road.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the combination of hands-free driving and diversion of the road by drivers has been linked to at least 12 road fatalities since 2016 in Tesla cars that operated on autopilot. Mr Adkins said the addition of video games “asks NHTSA to provide guidance and regulation.”

Tesla and its chief executive, Elon Musk, did not respond to multiple emails asking for information about new video games and whether they could compromise security.

Distracted driving is one of the main causes of the increase in the number of road fatalities in the United States. In the first six months of this year, 20,160 people died in traffic accidents, according to estimates from the Ministry of Transport. This is an increase of 18.4% from the first half of 2020 and the highest total since 2006.

Driver inattention is officially cited as the cause of around 10% of road deaths, said Steve Kiefer, a senior General Motors executive who also runs a foundation dedicated to the fight against distracted driving. But he and other safety experts believe the real figure is much higher because, they say, accident investigations often overlook distraction while citing other causes, such as reckless driving.

“I think the number is closer to 50 percent,” Mr. Kiefer said.

The Kiefer Foundation is dedicated to his son, Mitchel, who was killed at the age of 18 in 2016 when a distracted driver crashed his car into a Michigan highway.

Distracted driving results from activities that remove the driver’s hands while driving, look away from the road, or distract from the task of driving. It is often linked to smartphone use, such as texting or emailing while driving, but drivers sometimes read books or wear makeup. Some states prohibit the use of cell phones while driving. Automakers, Apple and Google have developed in-vehicle software to make it easier to use voice commands to send text messages and make hands-free phone calls while on the go.

Automakers have also added mechanisms to reduce potential distractions caused by front seat screens. Stellantis – formerly Fiat Chrysler – offers an entertainment system that can play DVDs on a front screen, but it turns off if the car leaves the park. Many navigation systems do not allow manual entry of addresses while a car is in motion. Mazda vehicles prohibit most uses of the dashboard display while in motion.

GM’s Super Cruise system, which can steer and brake and allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel, has an infrared camera to track the driver’s eyes. If they stray from the road, Super Cruise issues a warning or turns off and hands control back to the driver.

“We believe that with driver monitoring and eye monitoring, these features can be safely activated,” said Mr. Kiefer, who heads GM’s international operations.

Some Tesla cars have simpler cameras that look at the driver’s face, but the cameras detect less in the dark and do not accurately follow the gaze. Four years ago, after investigating a fatal autopilot crash, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended Tesla add an infrared camera to improve driver surveillance, but the company did not.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” said Jennifer Homendy, president of the security council. “We’re trying to warn the public and say to Tesla, ‘Hey, you need to put on some protective measures. But they didn’t.

The safety office investigates transportation accidents and can recommend measures to improve safety, but does not have the power to compel companies to take action. NHTSA fulfills this role.

The NHTSA has issued guidelines telling automakers that any in-car entertainment device should be designed so that the driver cannot use them “to perform side tasks that are inherently distracting while driving.”

Until this summer, Tesla’s software package video games – there were over a dozen of them – could only be played when a car was parked. That changed when the 2021.12.25.6 update was released to Tesla vehicles. He added the solitary; a jet fighter game, Sky Force Reloaded; and The Battle of Polytopia: Moonrise, a strategy game of conquest. Mr Patton said he was able to access all three with his car running and that he filed a complaint with the NHTSA through its website.

In a warning that appears before the game begins, Tesla reports that he is aware that solitaire can be played while the car is in motion: “Solitaire is a game for everyone, but playing while the car is in motion. in motion is reserved for passengers. ” A button asks for confirmation that the player is a passenger, but a driver can play just by touching it.

In a second youtube video, another Tesla owner also shows how the game can be played while the car is in motion. “It’s pretty dangerous,” the owner says in the video. “I’m sure someone will go on autopilot and then play solitaire while they’re on autopilot. Take note of this, Tesla.

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Newsrust - US Top News: New Tesla Safety Issue: Drivers Can Play Video Games in Moving Cars
New Tesla Safety Issue: Drivers Can Play Video Games in Moving Cars
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