What Does Tesla’s Decision to Disable Games Mean for CarPlay Users?


Tesla recently pushed an update to all of its cars to remove access to a gaming feature from its central touch screen while its vehicles are moving. While this decision clearly affects owners of the company’s electric vehicles, what could this mean for users of Apple CarPlay?

The Tesla Decision

In late December, it was reported by almost every outlet in the popular press that Tesla had agreed to prevent video games from being played on its cars while they’re moving. Before then, the touch screens that the company installs on the centre console of its vehicles could be used to activate a feature called “Passenger Play”.

While Passenger Play, as its name suggests, was intended to provide entertainment to the person riding next to the driver, there was nothing preventing the feature from being used by the one behind the wheel too. 

The company’s decision was most likely prompted by the fact that the United States’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it was opening a formal investigation into concerns that some Tesla owners were being distracted by the games while they were on the road. 

Of course, Tesla has one of the most advanced self-driving features on the market, but the manufacturer advises its customers that they must still pay full attention to the road while using Autopilot. It’s also a legal requirement for the driver to be alert and ready to step in should the onboard computers make a misstep or fail to spot a hazard.

The games will still be available on the center screen, but they will be locked while the car is moving, meaning passengers and drivers can only access this interactive content while safely parked up. This, of course, means that anyone taking a long road trip in a Tesla will be required to use more traditional types of car games like “I spy”, but Passenger Play could still be used while waiting outside a store or for others to get in the vehicle. 

Although no crashes or injuries have been linked to it, the investigation and subsequent disabling of the feature was prompted by a complaint from a Tesla owner from Portland, Oregon noticed he had access to the games while driving and then filed a complaint with the authorities. 

Everyone is a Gamer

Installing games on a car’s computer may seem a bit of a strange decision, but given that it was intended for passengers, it is at least possible to understand the rationale. Additionally, gaming has grown into a mainstream hobby in the last couple of decades, rather than being something that was only enjoyed by young men. 

Casual and mobile games have been a major driving force behind this, providing players with the ability to enjoy games whenever and wherever they want, often for shorter periods of time than traditional console and PC titles. 

The same is true for casino games. Developers of video slots have created thousands of different titles with a variety of features and themes that appeal to the broadest possible range of customers. For example, Big Blue Bounty could be of interest to those that enjoy the ocean and aquatic animals thanks to its use of octopi, jellyfish, and whales; while Deal or No Deal Live is going to interest fans of the television game show. 

For this reason, the ability to play games on a large screen is something that many people will likely have thought to be a good idea since this interactive medium is so ingrained into modern culture. 

Will This Change Apple CarPlay?

Ever since it was released back in 2014, users of Apple CarPlay have pondered whether it would be possible to use the system to play games. For the most part, though, the tech giant has been reluctant to add this functionality due to the same safety concerns that saw Tesla restrict access to its gaming features. 

There are, however, some games that can be used through CarPlay. Most of these are voice-based titles like Chicken Scream and Don’t stop! Sound Ninja, and should be used exclusively by the passengers and not the driver. 

The recent investigation and subsequent decision by Tesla are likely only to harden Apple’s existing position on CarPlay games. Therefore, users of its products can expect to see the status quo be maintained in the wake of this development.

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