Tesla’s In-Car Gaming System is Trouble, Experts Say

Eyes on the road

Key Takeaways

  • Tesla’s refreshed Model S sports car can play video games.
  • Experts say playing games in the car can be dangerous.
  • The technology that eliminates the need for a driver is currently being tested, experts say.
Tesla model S interior shot with The Witcher 3 on front display
Tesla

Tesla recently showed off a video game on the front console of its new car, but experts say that gaming while driving is a bad idea. 

Elon Musk, the company's CEO, recently unveiled the $80,000 refreshed Model S sports car. Tesla claims the vehicle now can compete with next-gen gaming consoles, and The Witcher 3 showed up in a promo on the car’s giant front screen next to the driver. But just because you can play games in your car doesn’t mean you should, observers say. 

"No vehicle or technology that is available on the market today is safe enough to allow drivers to play games while operating the car," wrote Raj Rajkumar, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and co-director of the General Motors-Carnegie Mellon Vehicular Information Technology Collaborative Research Lab, in an email interview. "Tesla's misnamed and misleading 'Full Self-Driving' package is anything but fully autonomous."

Play The Witcher in Your Tesla?

Teslas have made a name for themselves with their slick design, electric power, and semi-autonomous driving abilities. Musk wants the cars to be known for their gaming abilities, as well. "Want to play The Witcher game on your Tesla? (you can already watch the show on Tesla Netflix theater)," he wrote in a recent Tweet.

The new Model S comes with a 17-inch, 2200 x 1300-pixel main display, and an 8-inch second-row display. It’s not clear which one allows for gaming, but the video game clearly showed up in the front display next to the driver in news images. Either way, it’s sending the wrong message, some observers say. 

Interior of tesla model s with entertainment options on front display
Tesla

Tesla’s automated driving feature calls for the driver to monitor the road on an ongoing basis and nominally requires the driver to have a hand on the steering wheel, Rajkumar explained. 

"It is not clear whether the Tesla vehicle software enforces this need to have a hand on the vehicle or not, since updates muddle the picture significantly," he added.

"Tesla's misnamed and misleading 'Full Self-Driving' package is anything but fully autonomous."

Teslas have been involved in fatal accidents in which drivers weren’t holding the steering wheel. In a 2018 crash, the driver of a Tesla Model X was in an accident while using its autopilot feature, but didn’t have his hands on the steering wheel, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

In a preliminary report, the NTSB said the driver had been given two visual alerts and one auditory alert to place his hands on the steering wheel during the trip.

Just Listen to the Radio

There are no safe entertainment options while driving, other than listening to radio channels or Bluetooth audio, Rajkumar said. Someday, engineers hope to make a fully self-driving car in which "one can sleep, interact with family/friends, do office work, enjoy a hobby, etc., but we are not anywhere close to those luxuries," he said. "Stay alive so that when the technology matures, you will be around to enjoy those perks."

"No vehicle or technology that is available on the market today is safe enough to allow drivers to play games while operating the car."

The technology that eliminates the need for a driver is currently being tested, Melanie Musson, an autonomous vehicle specialist with Car Insurance Comparison, said in an email interview.

"Self-driving technology works best, though, when the other cars on the road are also autonomous," she added. "Autonomous vehicles can talk to each other, and they won’t perform surprising movements or maneuvers as human drivers might."

Backseat interior view of tesla model s and its two displays showing video games
Tesla

When cars do become more capable of automatic driving, you still won’t be able to relax. Fully self-driving vehicles "will be for cities like Phoenix or Sacramento well before they are available in the snowy streets of Chicago, the pedestrian laden streets of New York, or the curvy and meandering patterns of streets in Boston," Nico Larco, a professor of architecture at the University of Oregon, said in an email interview.

Tesla showing off a car’s ability to play video games seems like asking for trouble. Keep your eyes on the road and the console gaming at home.

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