In brief: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has launched a preliminary evaluation of the gameplay functionality on certain Tesla models. Specifically, the agency wants to determine if the feature is a distraction for drivers, even if they aren't the ones playing.
The ODI's evaluation spans 2017-2022 Tesla Model 3, S, X and Y variants and focuses on a feature called Passenger Play that allows certain games to be played on the center console screen while the vehicle is in motion. The ODI is concerned that the feature could distract drivers and increase the likelihood of a crash.
Tesla's big holiday update recently added the original Sonic the Hedgehog to Tesla Arcade, in addition to further functionality and various UI changes.
According to the ODI, gameplay on Tesla screens previously only worked when the vehicle was in park.
The preliminary evaluation seeks to gauge driver distraction potential, including how frequently and in what scenarios the feature is commonly used.
Combined with Tesla's Autopilot mode, it's not out of the realm of possibility that drivers could totally disengage from paying attention to the road to play a game on the center console. While such a scenario is no doubt the goal of autonomous driving systems, we're still a long way from reaching that level of capability.
Even a quick glance down to see how a passenger is progressing in a game could have fatal consequences.