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Tesla faces federal probe for its dashboard video games

Auto safety regulators are concerned that a video game feature in many vehicles made by electric car maker Tesla could distract drivers and lead to crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday they are looking at roughly 580,000 Tesla vehicles equipped with a feature known as "Passenger Play." Passenger Play, which is accessible through the cars' main driver's console, is supposed to turn on only when a Tesla car is in park, safety officials said. But NHTSA said it has received complaints in recent months that Passenger Play can turn on while someone is driving, raising the risk of an accident, according to a document filed by the agency.

The investigation will examine 2017-2022 Tesla Models 3, S, X Y, safety officials said. In one complaint, a Tesla driver from Oregon told NHTSA in August that Tesla should be ordered to strip all video games and live video from the front touch-screen console.

"Why is a manufacturer allowed to create an inherently distracting live video which takes over 2/3 of the screen which the driver relies on for all vehicle information?" the complaint states. "Creating a dangerous distraction for the driver is recklessly negligent."

Tesla has made the Passenger Play feature available in vehicles since December 2020, according to NHTSA. The feature allows passengers to use the touch-screen pad to play classic video games like Millipede and Asteroids. 

No crashes or fatalities have been reported to NHTSA linked to Passenger Play, according to the agency's filing. 

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. 

The Passenger Play probe isn't the first time safety officials have turned their attention to Tesla this year. In August, they opened an investigation into Tesla's Autopilot partially automated driving system after a series of collisions with parked emergency vehicles. That investigation covered 765,000 vehicles — almost every car Tesla has sold in the U.S. since the start of the 2014 model year. In the crashes identified by the NHTSA as part of that probe, 17 people were injured and one was killed.

Nation's top auto safety regulator investigating nearly a dozen accidents involving Tesla vehicles 03:31

In March, NHTSA sent a team of investigators to Detroit to probe a crash involving a Tesla that drove beneath a semitrailer. Detroit police said a white Tesla sedan drove through an intersection and struck the trailer. Both the Tesla driver and passenger survived the crash. 

Two people died in Houston earlier this year when a Tesla Model S crashed into a tree while using its autopilot feature. The car missed a turn and drove off the road and into the tree, bursting into flames, authorities in Houston said.

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