Play while driving: Tesla allows it, Mercedes remembers | Economic news

By TOM KRISHER, AP Automotive Writer

DETROIT (AP) – Days after reports surfaced that Tesla allows drivers to play video games on dashboard touchscreens while vehicles are on the move, Mercedes-Benz issued a recall to States -United for a similar problem.

The German automaker said in documents released by U.S. regulators on Friday that the issue affected 227 vehicles and had already been addressed by updating an internal computer server.

But the fact that Mercedes made the recall due to concerns about distracted driving, and Tesla did not, has raised questions about whether federal auto safety standards are applied equally by the National Highway. Traffic Safety Administration.

“MB follows regulatory rules as they’re supposed to, unlike what we’ve seen from Tesla,” said Philip Koopman, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. If NHTSA doesn’t take action against Tesla, the agency will have one standard for Tesla and another for Mercedes and other automakers, Koopman said.

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The NHTSA did not directly address the double standard or Tesla, but said in a statement Friday that federal vehicle safety law prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles that pose an unreasonable safety risk. “Every automaker in the United States has the same responsibility to identify and repair immediately, free of charge, such a safety defect in their vehicles,” the statement said.

The agency said it is assessing how automakers identify and protect against the risk of distraction due to defects, misuse or intended use of infotainment screens. The NHTSA said it communicates regularly with automakers about their concerns, as well as reviewing consumer complaints and a “massive amount of data that companies are required to submit on a regular basis, to research evidence of security risks. If the data shows that such a risk may exist, NHTSA will act immediately, ”the agency said.

A message was left on Friday requesting comment from Tesla, who disbanded its media relations department.

Mercedes has said in documents that on certain 2021 and 2022 EQS and S vehicle models, drivers can access television programming and the internet while the vehicles are traveling. The automaker said it intends to turn off the features while the cars are on the move, but the recalled vehicles had the incorrect computer setup.

“If an occupant actively selected the function or application while the vehicle was driving, it could result in driver distraction, which could increase the risk of an accident,” the company wrote in documents. The recalled cars have active and connected “Mercedes me” accounts.

Mercedes wrote that she had no reports of accidents or injuries due to the problem, which was discovered in a company vehicle in Germany.

Last month, a Tesla owner near Portland, Oregon filed a complaint with NHTSA after discovering that while driving he could play video games and browse the Internet on his screen. Tesla Model 3 2021. The agency said Thursday it is communicating with Tesla. On the question.

NHTSA is already investigating why Tesla’s partially automated “Autopilot” driving system continues to crash into stopped emergency vehicles, and asked why Tesla did not file recall documents when it performed a live internet update in an attempt to resolve the issue. security issue. It is also examining the performance of Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” software after receiving a complaint that it nearly caused a crash.

Tesla says neither of the two systems can drive vehicles, and drivers must be ready to step in at all times.

Jason Levine, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, said the auto industry appears to have reached a point with infotainment displays where it will have to “choose to be a catalyst or a barrier” to distraction. driving.

“We are happy to see Mercedes recall and fix this unreasonable risk to everyone on the road, but we urge NHTSA to act quickly to ensure all on-screen entertainment distractions are turned off when vehicles are in motion,” regardless of the manufacturer, ”Levine mentioned.

Mercedes is likely paying close attention to U.S. safety laws after being fined NHTSA $ 13 million in 2019 for a series of report failures involving recalled vehicles.

The automaker agreed to payment and correct the defects after the agency alleged that Mercedes was slow to report safety issues and was not sending reminder notification letters fast enough.

Mercedes’ U.S. unit said at the time that it had done nothing wrong on purpose.

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