Just a few days after reports surfaced that Tesla drivers can play video games on dashboard touch screens when the vehicle is moving, Mercedes-Benz has issued a U.S. safety recall for a similar issue.
According to an Associated Press news report, the German automaker said in documents posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that the issue affects 227 vehicles and has already been fixed by updating an internal computer server.
But questions about the uniformity of auto safety standards are arising because of the fact that Mercedes issued this recall over concerns about distracted driving while Tesla did not.
Experts told AP that Mercedes followed regulatory rules as they are supposed to, but Tesla hasn’t. If NHTSA fails to take action against Tesla, the agency would have one standard for Tesla and another for Mercedes and other automakers.
Video Games Safety Risk in Vehicles
NHTSA responded to AP by saying that the federal vehicle safety act prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles that pose an unreasonable risk to safety. The agency’s statement says that every automaker in the country has the same responsibility to identify and immediately repair safety defects at no cost to consumers. NHTSA has also said it is evaluating how automakers are identifying and dealing with distraction hazards.
Mercedes said in documents filed with NHTSA that in some of its 2021 and 2022 EQS and S model vehicles, drivers were able to access television programs and the Internet when the vehicles were in motion.
The automaker said it intended to disable those features when the cars were moving, but that the features were not disabled in the recalled vehicles because of an inaccurate computer configuration. This posed the risk of a crash due to distraction. Mercedes has said it hasn’t received reports of crashes or injuries because of this problem.
Last month, the owner of a 2021 Tesla Model 3 in Oregon filed a complaint with NHTSA after finding out that he could play video games and browse the Internet on the screen of his vehicle. NHTSA officials have said they are discussing this issue with Tesla. But so far, Tesla has not issued any recalls related to this issue.
The Need for a Recall
It is apparent that Mercedes did the right thing by recalling the vehicles as soon as it discovered that the vehicles allowed drivers to play video games or access the internet when the vehicles were in motion. It is about time Tesla did the right thing and fixed the issue in its vehicles as well.
There is the added danger of Tesla drivers engaging in video games or browsing the Internet after putting the vehicle in Autopilot. We know that Autopilot is merely a driver-assist feature and drivers should still pay attention to the road when Autopilot is on. But we have seen so many instances of drunk driving, distracted driving, and even drivers falling asleep at the wheel with Autopilot on. This is a disaster waiting to happen and NHTSA needs to force the issue so these Tesla vehicles can be recalled promptly.