Auto safety regulators in the United States announced on Wednesday that they have launched a formal inquiry into 580,000 Tesla vehicles sold since 2017 because of the automaker's choice to allow games to be played on the front center touchscreen.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said its early assessment encompasses various Tesla Model 3, S, X, and Y vehicles from 2017 through 2022 model years. According to the commission, this feature, known as "Passenger Play," "may distract the driver and raise the danger of a crash."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that it has "This feature has been accessible in Tesla 'Passenger Play'-equipped automobiles since December 2020, according to Tesla.

Previously, the gaming function was only available when the vehicle was in Park."

Tesla did not respond right away. "Aspects of the feature, including the frequency and use situations of Tesla 'Passenger Play,' will be evaluated," the NHTSA added.

The game function was featured in the New York Times earlier this month, prompting the NHTSA to announce it was in talks with Tesla about it.

Distracted driving is responsible for a substantial number of road deaths in the United States, according to the EPA, with 3,142 deaths in 2019. Official statistics, according to safety advocates, understate the problem since not all distracted drivers acknowledge it after a disaster.Tesla Model S - Wikipedia

According to the New York Times, the Tesla update introduced three games: solitaire, a jet fighter, and a conquest strategy scenario, as well as a caution that says, "Playing while the car is in motion is solely for passengers."

According to the New York Times, a button asks if the player is a passenger, while a driver might play just by hitting the button.

In 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  issued guidelines encouraging automakers to "consider safety and driver distraction prevention in the design and use of entertainment systems in automobiles."

"In-vehicle technologies should be built so that they cannot be utilized by the driver to execute inherently distracting secondary tasks while driving," according to the rules.

After a series of collisions involving the system and parked emergency vehicles, the government initiated a safety inquiry into 765,000 Tesla vehicles in August over its driver-assistance technology Autopilot.

A preliminary evaluation is the first stage before the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decides whether to escalate a probe to an engineering analysis, which is required before the agency can demand a recall.