Tesla has agreed to modify software in its cars to prevent drivers and passengers from playing video games on the dashboard screens while a vehicle is in motion, a federal safety regulator said on Thursday.
The agreement comes a day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a formal investigation of the game feature, which is known as Passenger Play. The investigation was announced after The New York Times reported this month on the potential safety risks the games posed.
“Following the opening of a preliminary evaluation of Tesla’s ‘Passenger Play,’ Tesla informed the agency that it is changing the functionality of this feature,” the safety agency said in a statement. “In a new software update, ‘Passenger Play’ will now be locked and unusable when the vehicle is in motion.”
Safety experts had criticized Tesla for allowing the games to be accessible while cars were in motion. “There is no argument that can be made that this isn’t dangerous,” said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer group.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.
The company has been adding video games to its cars for several years. Most can only be played when the car is in park but this summer it made available three via over-the-air software that can be played on the large touch screens mounted in the center of Teslas. The games are solitaire; a jet fighter game, Sky Force Reloaded; and the Battle of Polytopia: Moonrise, a conquest strategy game.
A warning that appears before the solitaire game starts indicated Tesla expected it to be played while the car is moving: “Solitaire is a game for everyone, but playing while the car is in motion is only for passengers.” Players are asked to confirm that they are not driving the car, but nothing prevents drivers from clicking through that question and playing the games.
“The Vehicle Safety Act prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles with defects posing unreasonable risks to safety, including technologies that distract drivers from driving safely,” the safety agency said.