DETROIT (AP) — A few days after reports surfaced that Tesla allows drivers to play video games on dashboard touch screens while vehicles are moving, Mercedes-Benz has issued a U.S. recall for a similar issue.
The German automaker said in documents posted Friday by U.S. regulators that the issue affected 227 vehicles and already has been fixed by updating an internal computer server.
But the fact that Mercedes did the recall over concerns about distracted driving, and Tesla has not, raised questions about whether federal auto safety standards are being applied equally by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“MB is following the regulatory rules as they are supposed to — in sharp contrast to what we’ve been seeing from Tesla,” said Philip Koopman, a 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.
NHTSA didn’t directly address the double standard or Tesla, but said in a statement Friday that the federal vehicle safety act prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles that pose an unreasonable risk to safety.
“Every motor vehicle manufacturer in the United States has the same responsibility to identify and immediately repair, for free, such safety defect in their vehicles,” the statement said.
The agency said it’s assessing how automakers identify and safeguard against distraction hazards due to faults, misuse or intended use of infotainment screens. NHTSA said it regularly communicates with automakers about concerns, as well as reviewing consumer complaints and a “massive amount of data that companies are required to submit on a regular basis, looking for evidence of safety risks. If the data show that such a risk may exist, NHTSA will act immediately,” the agency said.
A message was left Friday seeking comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations department.
Mercedes said in documents that on some 2021 and 2022 EQS and S model vehicles, drivers could access television programs and the internet while the vehicles are traveling. The automaker said it intended to disable the features while the cars are moving, but the recalled vehicles had an incorrect computer configuration.