The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a new probe into a Tesla Inc. feature that could allow drivers to play video games on a dashboard screen while the vehicle is moving.
The agency said that its latest Tesla investigation would focus on the so-called “Passenger Play” game function, located on the front center touchscreen, that it said may distract the driver.
The probe will apply to about 580,000 2017-2022 Model 3, S, X and Y vehicles, NHTSA said. It will “evaluate aspects of the feature, including the frequency and use scenarios,” the agency said in a Dec. 21 filing.
NHTSA’s investigation is the latest to raise questions about Tesla’s vehicles, which have pioneered new technologies but also pushed boundaries and occasionally run afoul of regulators under the company’s controversial founder and chief executive officer, Elon Musk.
The company didn’t respond to a message seeking comment on the NHTSA probe.
The agency said the feature has been available while the vehicle is moving since December of 2020. Before that, it was only available when the car was parked. No crashes or injuries were reported.
The agency recommends that in-vehicle devices “be designed so that they cannot be used by the driver to perform inherently distracting secondary tasks while driving,” it said in an earlier statement.
NHTSA said it received a complaint in August from a consumer in Lake Oswego, Oregon, who alerted the regulator that video games and web searching could be conducted on the dash while the vehicle was being driven.
Distracted driving claimed 3,142 lives in 2019, according to NHTSA.
Shares of Tesla rose 4.5% to $980.27 as of 9:45 a.m. in New York on Wednesday after Musk offloaded more of his stake in the electric-vehicle maker.
The latest Tesla probe follows an investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot system that NHTSA opened Aug. 13 after identifying 11 crashes involving first-responder vehicles since 2018.
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