By Hyunjoo Jin and Akash Sriram
(Reuters) -Electric carmaker Tesla Inc will stop allowing video games to be played on vehicle screens while its cars are moving, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Thursday.
The move follows an announcement by the NHTSA on Wednesday that it had opened a formal safety investigation on 580,000 Tesla vehicles sold since 2017 over the automaker's decision to allow games to be played on the front center touchscreen while they are in motion.
This functionality, referred to as “Passenger Play,” may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash, the NHTSA has said.
Tesla has informed the NHTSA that a software update will lock the "Passenger Play" feature and make it unusable when the vehicle is in motion, a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement.
"The NHTSA constantly assesses how manufacturers identify and safeguard against distraction hazards that may arise due to faults, misuse, or intended use of convenience technologies, including infotainment screens," the agency said.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Safety advocates have raised concerns that drivers may not pay attention on the road, especially when Tesla vehicles are operating in semi-autonomous mode known as Autopilot.
A driver's distraction - likely from a phone game application - was one of the causes of a fatal crash of a Tesla car operating in Autopilot in California in 2018, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The NHTSA in August opened a safety investigation on 765,000 Tesla vehicles over its Autopilot system after a series of crashes involving the system and parked emergency vehicles.
(Reporting by Akash Sriram in Bengaluru and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco; Editing by Aditya Soni and Dan Grebler)