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Monday, December 5, 2022

The possibility that drivers may play video games while driving is a new safety concern for Tesla

Vince Patton, who just purchased a Tesla Model 3 this summer, came across a YouTube video promoting a feature that caught his attention: three video games that can be played on the enormous touch screen situated in front of the dashboard – all while driving down the road.

But he gave it a go in a parking lot, and he was able to play a solitaire game on the Model 3 while the car was moving forward. “It was just for like five seconds, and then I switched it off,” he stated of his experiment. “I’m completely taken aback. “It simply seems to be intrinsically harmful to me.”

The games were included in an over-the-air software update that was sent to majority of the automaker’s vehicles this summer. They may be performed by a driver or a passenger in plain view of the driver, raising additional concerns about whether Tesla is jeopardising safety in its haste to incorporate new technology and functions into its vehicles.

Safety experts have been critical of Tesla’s Autopilot system for many years because it enables drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel for lengthy periods of time, even though this is not permitted by the manufacturer’s specifications. Furthermore, it lacks a reliable system for ensuring that drivers retain their attention on the road.

It has been determined that the combination of hands-free driving and drivers’ looking away from the road has been linked to at least 12 traffic fatalities in Tesla vehicles that were running in Autopilot mode since 2016, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Mr. Adkins said that the inclusion of video games “cries out for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to give some advice and regulation.”

After receiving a number of letters inquiring about the new video games and if they may compromise safety, Tesla and its top executive, Elon Musk, did not react to any of them.

Distracted driving is a key contributing factor to the increasing number of road fatalities in the United States of America. According to estimates from the Department of Transportation, 20,160 persons perished in road accidents in the first six months of this year. Compared to the first half of 2020, this was an increase of 18.4 percent, and it was the biggest total since 2006.

According to Steve Kiefer, a senior General Motors executive who also serves as the chairman of a nonprofit committed to preventing distracted driving, driver inattention is officially identified as the cause of around 10% of road fatalities. However, he and other safety experts feel that the true number is substantially higher since, according to them, collision investigations often miss distraction while focusing on other factors such as aggressive driving.

Distracted driving is caused by activities that cause drivers’ hands to be taken off the steering wheel, their eyes to be drawn away from the road, or their focus to be diverted from the driving job. It is often associated with smartphone usage, such as texting or emailing while behind the wheel, although drivers have also been seen to read books or apply cosmetics while behind the wheel. Some states prohibit the use of telephones while driving with the hands on the wheel. Automakers, Apple, and Google have worked together to build in-car software that makes it simpler to send text messages and make phone calls while driving, while leaving your hands free and your hands on the wheel.

Automobile manufacturers have also implemented measures to prevent the possibility of distraction from front-seat displays. It is available from Stellantis — previously Fiat Chrysler — and it has a front-screen entertainment system that can play DVDs, but it turns black if the vehicle is moved out of park. It is often not possible to manually input an address into a navigation system while the vehicle is in motion. While driving in a Mazda car, the majority of the dashboard screen cannot be used.

The Super Cruise system from General Motors, which can steer and stop while allowing drivers to remove their hands from the steering wheel, is equipped with an infrared camera that tracks the driver’s eyes. If they deviate from the road, Super Cruise either delivers a warning or shuts down the vehicle and returns control to the driver.

The cameras in certain Tesla vehicles are simpler, and they just look at the driver’s face. However, the cameras detect less in the dark, and they do not follow eye stare correctly. Despite the fact that the National Transportation Safety Board suggested that Tesla install an infrared camera to increase driver monitoring four years ago during an investigation into a deadly Autopilot collision, the firm has yet to do so.

Automakers should design any in-vehicle entertainment gadgets such that the driver cannot use them “to execute intrinsically distracting secondary activities while driving,” according to rules released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A notice that shows before the game begins indicates that Tesla is aware that solitaire may be played while the vehicle is in motion: “Solitaire is a game that anybody can play, however playing while the car is in motion is exclusively for passengers.” It is necessary to affirm that the player is a passenger in order to play, although a driver may play just by pushing the button.

Additionally, in another video on YouTube, another Tesla owner demonstrates how the game can be played while the vehicle is in driving mode. During the video, the owner expresses concern that the situation is unsafe. In my opinion, someone will utilise Autopilot and then play solitaire while they are in Autopilot mode. That’s something to keep in mind, Tesla.”

David Faber
I am a Business Journalist of The National Era
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