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Tesla Update: Drivers Can Play Video Games in Moving CarsTesla Motors has recently been featured in the news for a potential safety hazard in the latest system update, raising concerns regarding safety and distracted driving. Over the summer of 2021, Tesla quietly updated their vehicle systems, allowing drivers to play interactive Tesla Arcade games while driving. 

 

Do Tesla games work while driving?

Before, occupants were only able to play games when the car was in park. The new in-motion feature prompts a notification before launching a game stating “Use of Tesla Arcade while the vehicle is in motion is only for passengers. Please check local laws prior to playing”. Then, all the driver has to do is tap “I am a Passenger” in order to proceed, which is hardly an obstacle. 

Given that sensors in the front passenger seat determine whether airbags deploy, it is notable that Tesla does not use their own tech to verify whether someone is actually seated in the front passenger seat. The end result of this software update is that drivers can play video games while flying down the interstate, or moving across town. 

It is not clear whether Tesla hoped common sense would prevail for their drivers, or their verification (tapping the “I am a passenger” button) was sufficient from both a safety and liability standpoint. More than one Tesla owner noticed, and as of December 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had received more than 60 complaints from concerned Model 3 vehicle owners. The NHTSA, an agency of the Department of Transportation,  aims to “save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce vehicle-related crashes.”

 

Can you drive a Tesla during a software update?

Ironically, Tesla vehicles are not able to initiate updates while in motion, “as a safety measure”. However, Tesla owners can begin to install an update and finish downloading while driving, but the download phase may be paused if the car becomes disconnected from Wi-Fi.

How often do Teslas update?

Teslas typically have a 30 to 60-day patch cycle, which means that you may not get every single update. This ensures the electric vehicle fleet is not prone to single-bug failures. Some updates can be quite large, so it is probably best to have a strong Wi-Fi signal. 

 

2018 Fatal Tesla Crash Investigation

Most vehicle crashes are investigated by local agencies, with the federal agency National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) only stepping in when an element of public interest is at stake. In June of this year, the agency has investigated 10 Tesla crash deaths since 2016. 

In February 2020, the NTSB released their results of an investigation of a fatal Tesla crash on March 23, 2018,  in Mountain View, CA. The driver of the Tesla was a 38-year-old Apple employee driving a 2017 Tesla Model X P100D electric-powered SUV semi-autonomously using Tesla’s Autopilot software. The NTSB found the “Tesla autopilot system did not provide an effective means of monitoring the driver’s level of engagement with the driving task” the driver did not take evasive action to prevent the crash, “most likely due to distraction by a cell phone game application.” 

 

Self-Driving Cars Cause Accidents Due To Distracted Driving

Although a self-driving car won’t drive drunk or take its eyes off the road, the world has yet to see an autonomous vehicle that is equipped to drive itself safely for every situation. That being said—despite how far Tesla Motors and other automakers have come in the development of autonomous programs—drivers need to stay alert and be prepared to take control regardless of the auto-pilot system.

The NHTSA is concerned with the move, due primarily to the already-high instances of crashes due to drivers being distracted behind the wheel. Distracted driving claimed 3,142 lives in 2019, as reported by the NHTSA. 

In the first six months of this year, approximately 20,160 people died in traffic crashes, according to the Department of Transportation. That was up 18.4 percent from the first half of 2020, and the highest total since 2006.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proclaimed eight Americans die each day due to distracted driving. So what is the link between Tesla and distracted driving? 

 

Distracted Driving Laws and Autopilot Cars

Distracted driving laws apply to all drivers, no matter if an autopilot system is enabled in a vehicle—texting and driving are prohibited to anyone sitting behind the wheel. 

One big concern with Tesla tech features is that their systems allow drivers to rely on automation so that they can do other things. While most drivers have cell phones, tablets, or even laptops, the offering of Tesla’s own 17-inch touchscreen (officially called the media control unit) to play games seems like a bold offering of a distraction may contradict their message of encouraging drivers to keep their eyes on the road. In an age when we are so accustomed to clicking or tapping boxes to accept terms and conditions or warnings, Tesla’s warning may not be sufficient. 

On one hand, Elon Musk has encouraged drivers to be “please be paranoid” and Tesla has said the software “may do the wrong thing at the worst time.” On the other hand, drivers are easily able to access and play video games.  While driver assistance systems (like Tesla’s Full Self-Driving) are legal in California, they still require a person behind the wheel to remain vigilant at all times. 

 

Concerns About Teenage Drivers and Teslas 

Concerns about the hazards of distracted driving extend beyond the vehicles’ primary drivers. Many Tesla owners are successful adults who have children of their own, who will or are learning to drive. The topic of whether it’s safe to let teenagers drive tech-heavy vehicles like Teslas is a hot topic. Many drivers understand the risk of taking their eyes off the road or hands off the wheel, and avoid doing so but are concerned about the safety of their children. 

Learning to drive a Tesla—either with autopilot or full self-driving—could be compared to a pilot learning to drive a multi-engine jet aircraft, never having learned to fly in a single-engine airplane with a propeller. Tesla offers the technology to make driving mindless, although it is still not illegal, it is a dangerous carrot to dangle, especially with newer drivers on the road. 

Other Safety Concerns with Teslas 

Tesla again made headlines again in December 2021 when the NHTSA said it was communicating with Tesla regarding faulty Autopilot cameras in some of its US-made electric vehicles. The company did not issue a recall but authorized service centers to replace the faulty cameras for eligible Tesla owners on a goodwill basis, meaning Tesla will pay for it. 

 

Tesla’s Liability in Car Accidents. Contact an Experienced Orange County Personal Injury Lawyer Today!

Our team is closely monitoring the potential liability of Tesla for vehicle accidents. If you or a loved one have been in an accident involving a Tesla or distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. The Orange County car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates can help! Our personal injury lawyers have experience in handling a variety of accident claims, including Tesla accidents. With multiple offices located in Irvine, Anaheim, Los Angeles, El Segundo, Riverside and San Diego, our car accident lawyers represent injured victims across Southern California. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with an accident attorney, please call 949-727-9300.