NHTSA Closes Probe into Tesla Feature That Allowed Video Gaming While Vehicles Were Moving

The "Passenger Play" feature is now only usable while the car's stopped

2023 Tesla Model X/Model S with steering wheel option
(Image: Tesla)

U.S. regulators closed an investigation into a Tesla feature that allowed playing games while cars were moving.

After a 2021 Tesla Model 3 owner complained to the NHTSA about the company’s “Passenger Play”, the agency opened an investigation to determine whether it presents a distraction to the driver on December 21. Fast forward a year-and-a-half, and a new document shows the matter is resolved, as of May 26, 2023.

During the probe, the NHTSA was concerned that more than 580,000 vehicles from the 2017 through 2022 model years could allow distracted driving. Tesla moved to remove Passenger Play altogether, under pressure from the agency. A month after it sent out a December 2021 software update, Tesla reported 97% of impacted owners received it.

Passenger Play originally debuted in Tesla’s 2020 holiday software release. The feature allows occupants to play specific games — mainly turn-based and limited gameplay motion titles, as the NHTSA’s report points out — and would change the screen area devoted to the game based on whether a vehicle was moving. For the year or so that the capability to use the feature in motion was active, Tesla said no collisions were reported as a result. However, safety regulators noted about a third of trips in which the feature was in use while vehicles were moving (the NHTSA does not specify how many trips), information showed the Passenger Play feature in use while there was no one in the passenger seat.