US seeks more information from Tesla on investigation into distracted driving

WASHINGTON, Jan 25 (Reuters) – U.S. auto safety regulators said Tuesday they had additional information from Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) in its study of 580,000 vehicles on the automaker’s decision to allow games to be played by passengers on the front center touchscreen.

In December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a preliminary assessment of the 2017-2022 Tesla Model 3, S, X, and Y vehicles on the vehicle’s “Passenger Play” feature crash hazard.”

NHTSA wants records of all crash reports associated with the feature, and for Tesla to provide a timeline of events and studies supporting its risk assessment “in engaging non-driving related tasks in the front seat of vehicle-based devices, even when the task only intended for the front seat is a passenger.”

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Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment

NHTSA said in December it had “confirmed that this feature will be available in Tesla Passenger Play-equipped vehicles as of December 2020.” Previously, the game feature was “only enabled when the vehicle was in park”.

On Dec. 23, Tesla notified NHTSA that it would stop playing video games on vehicle screens while driving, the agency said.

Tesla informed NHTSA that a software update will disable the “Passenger Play” feature and make it unusable when the vehicle is in motion, NHTSA said.

NHTSA asked Tesla to respond to questions by March 4, including providing “trip counts where game use occurred while the shift indicator was in motion” and to include usage where vehicle sensors did not detect an occupant in the front passenger seat. It also wants data where “gameplay occurred concurrently with driver intervention or active safety measures.”

The agency launched a safety investigation into 765,000 Tesla vehicles through its Autopilot driver-assistance system in August after a series of accidents involving the system and parked emergency vehicles.

A preliminary assessment is a first step before NHTSA decides whether to convert a probe to technical analysis, which must be done before the agency can request a recall.

Am 29.11. Daimler’s (DAIGn.DE) Mercedes-Benz is recalling 227 US vehicles because the vehicle’s infotainment systems “may allow activation of television and internet displays while driving and distract the driver.”

In 2013, the NHTSA issued guidelines to encourage automakers to “incorporate safety and driver distraction prevention into their designs and the introduction of infotainment devices into vehicles.”

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bernard Orr

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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