A U.S. regulator is investigating Tesla over a video game feature.

Drivers can be distracted playing games while the vehicle is in motion, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said, following a New York Times report earlier this month.


Vince Patton demonstrating the Passenger Play feature in his Telsa Model 3.Credit…Will Matsuda for The New York Times

The federal government’s main auto safety regulator has opened an investigation into a feature in Teslas that allows drivers to play games on a dashboard touch screen while the car is in motion.

“This functionality, referred to as ‘Passenger Play,’ may distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Tuesday in a document filed on its website.

The action comes after The New York Times reported on the safety concern this month.

The inquiry by the safety agency, which is part of the Department of Transportation, covers about 580,000 cars and sport utility vehicles from model years 2017 through 2022. The agency is separately also investigating potential flaws in the electric car company’s Autopilot system that can steer, accelerate and brake a car on its own.

“In opening this preliminary evaluation, NHTSA will evaluate the scenarios in which a driver could interact with the “Passenger Play” feature,” the agency said.

This investigation is not focused on Autopilot, but NHTSA hinted at potential concerns that drivers could play games while using that advanced driver-assistance system in the mistaken belief that the car was driving itself. Tesla instructs drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention to the road while using Autopilot.

“NHTSA reminds the public that no commercially available motor vehicles today can drive themselves,” the agency said. “Certain advanced driving assistance features can promote safety by helping drivers avoid crashes and mitigate the severity of crashes that occur, but as with all technologies and equipment on motor vehicles, drivers must use them correctly and responsibly.”

Safety experts have criticized Tesla for not installing effective safeguards in its cars to ensure drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel and their eyes on the road while using Autopilot.

The company and its chief executive, Elon Musk, have also been criticized by safety experts for promoting Autopilot and a more advanced package of services called Full Self Driving as self-driving systems. The company has allowed some owners to take to public roads to test Full Self Driving, which Tesla has said cannot in fact drive its cars on its own despite its name.

The video game feature has been available since December 2020 in some Tesla vehicles, the agency said. “Prior to this time, gameplay was enabled only when the vehicle was in park,” the agency added.

In August, Tesla provided an over-the-air update to its cars’ software that added three games that can be played while the vehicles are in motion — solitaire; a jet fighter game, Sky Force Reloaded; and The Battle of Polytopia: Moonrise, a conquest strategy game.

Vince Patton, a retiree in Lake Oswego, Ore., filed a complaint with the safety agency through its website after buying a Tesla Model 3 this summer. He said he was able to play a solitaire game on the Model 3 while in motion.

“I’m astonished,” he told The Times. “To me, it just seems inherently dangerous.”

Gregory Schmidt contributed reporting.

Pipes bound for a natural gas pipeline in Germany. It is very unlikely that the giant Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany will open this winter and bring relief.Credit…Jens Buettner/DPA, via Associated Press

Europe’s energy crunch shows little sign of easing. Natural gas markets, the root of the problem, remain on edge because supplies are tight, and traders doubt whether the continent has enough of the fuel stored to last a cold winter without disruption.

The buildup of Russian troops on the border of Ukraine, through which Russian gas flows to the West, also has added to concerns about whether gas will run out. Already, low volumes of gas from Russia, Europe’s main source of imports of the fuel, have helped raise prices in recent months.

“There is a risk of supply shortages that could erode economic growth and trigger public discord,” said Henning Gloystein, a director for energy and climate at Eurasia Group, a political risk firm, adding that blackouts are possible in a worst-case scenario. Mr. Gloystein said that should the situation worsen, governments might order factories cut their gas use to ensure that households have enough to keep warm.

On Tuesday, gas on the TTF trading hub in the Netherlands hit record levels of about $60 per million British thermal units on reports that flows in a pipeline that brings Russian gas to Germany were being switched back toward the East. (European gas prices have doubled this month and are roughly 15 times what gas is selling for in the United States.)

Mr. Gloystein said that this change of direction might reflect opportunistic trading activity rather than sinister maneuvering on the part of Moscow, but the fact remains that natural gas markets in Europe are ready to soar at the slightest provocation.

Tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine make it very unlikely that the giant Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany will open anytime soon and bring relief.

On a call with reporters on Tuesday, Karen Donfried, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said that Washington considers Nord Stream 2 “a Russian geopolitical project that undermines the energy security and the national security of a significant part of the Euro-Atlantic community.”

Ms. Donfried said that the United States was working closely with the new German government to strengthen Europe’s energy security. Analysts, though, say that although the high prices are attracting flows of liquefied natural gas to Europe, the shipments may not be enough to replace Russian gas or to ease the crunch.

Because gas is a key fuel for generating electricity, electric power prices also are soaring across Europe. In Britain, for instance, steady power was trading on Tuesday for about 340 pounds, about $450, per megawatt-hour, a wholesale metric, on the Epex Spot exchange. That’s about three times the average price of electricity over the year.

The high gas prices of recent months will eventually lead to rises in energy costs for households in Britain and other countries. Martin Young, an analyst at Investec, a securities firm, forecast in a recent note to clients that British consumers, who have been protected by price ceilings, could see their energy bills rise by more than 50 percent when adjustments are announced early next year.

In recent days, the closure of three French nuclear plants to check for faults has further stoked the power market.

“It’s becoming the new normal for this winter,” Mark Devine, a trader at Sembcorp, an energy firm, said of the elevated prices.

R.J. Scaringe is under pressure to deliver on Rivian’s promise of doing for electric trucks what Tesla did for electric cars.Credit…Lyndon French for The New York Times

From the meme stock rally to the “metaverse,” the chief executives that mattered in 2021 included Robinhood’sVlad Tenev and Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg.

Mr. Tenev navigated criticism of his company’s commission-free trading app to pull off an initial public offering that valued the brokerage start-up at more than $30 billion. Mr. Zuckerberg changed his company name and direction, and he pushed Meta to be more aggressive in responding to controversies, including a trove of leaked internal documents that outlined how much the company knew about harmful effects of its products.

Another notable chief executive, Citigroup’s Jane Fraser, the first woman to lead one of the nation’s largest financial firms, shook up the bank’s culture and took a different approach with its return-to-office plan than rivals, promising “Zoom-free Fridays” and permanent hybrid work schedules for all who wanted one.

What top executives will be the newsmakers of 2022? The Dealbook newsletter has some predictions for the chief executives to watch in the new year.

If 2022 turns out to be a return to normal, the chief executives of the companies that saw the biggest boost from the pandemic might be the ones trying to figure out how to stay afloat. Shares of Peloton have fallen 61 percent over the past three months, while those in Moderna and Zoom have sunk about 30 percent in the same period.

Peloton’s chief, John Foley, must reverse a sales slump driven by gym reopenings.

Zoom’s chief executive, Eric Yuan, must convince investors that its core videoconferencing software can adapt to a new era of hybrid work.

Although the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus may amplify demand for boosters, Moderna’s leader, St?phane Bancel, must prove that his company has more than one viable vaccine.

Some executives took on prominent new chief executive positions this year that are worth watching.

Rosalind Brewerwas picked to run Walgreens in March — and has moved the pharmacy chain further into health care and away from retail.

Thasunda Brown Duckett, a top JPMorgan Chase executive, began leading the finance giant TIAA in May.

Andy Jassy replaced Jeff Bezos as Amazon’s chief in July and must now fend off fierce scrutiny from regulators on everything from antitrust to workplace safety.

Parag Agrawal, who became Twitter’s chief in November, will have to prove that he can deliver on the social network’s ambitious growth targets.

After nearly 10 years in stealth mode and holding one of the biggest I.P.O.s of this year, Rivian is under pressure to deliver on its promise of doing for electric trucks what Tesla did for electric cars. Despite having sold just 386 vehicles as of last week, Rivian’s market cap is now bigger than that of Ford (an investor) and on par with that of General Motors. R.J. Scaringe, the automaker’s chief, has big expansion plans for next year, including breaking ground on a $5 billion factory in Georgia while expanding Rivian’s existing plant in Illinois, and producing 100,000 delivery vehicles for Amazon, another investor.

Mary Barra of General Motors expects a big payoff from the investments that the carmaker has made in electric vehicles. In October, she said the company aimed to roughly double its annual revenue by 2030, to about $280 billion, growth driven mostly by new electric trucks and cars, but also by new revenue streams from software and services. In 2022, investors will undoubtedly keep an eye on the company’s progress on those ambitious goals.

Correction: Dec. 22, 2021

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of the chief executive of Citigroup. She is Jane Fraser, not Frasier.

Mary C. Daly in 2019. Policymakers have been caught off guard by the persistence of high inflation.Credit…Ann Saphir/Reuters

Mary C. Daly was in line behind a woman in her neighborhood Walgreens in Oakland, Calif., this fall when she witnessed an upsetting consequence of inflation. The shopper, who was older, was shuffling uncomfortably as the clerk rang up her items.

“She starts ruffling in her pockets, and in her purse,” Ms. Daly said in an interview with The New York Times’s Jeanna Smialek. “And she says: This is a lot more expensive than it usually is. I buy these things — these are my monthly purchases.”

The woman had to put something back — she chose potato chips — because she couldn’t afford everything in her basket.

The moment hit especially hard for Ms. Daly, who is president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. As one of the Fed’s 18 top officials, she is one of the people who sets economic policy to help to ensure a strong job market and to keep prices for goods and services stable.

As recently as mid-November, she had argued that the Fed should be patient in removing its support, avoiding an overreaction to inflation that might prove temporary and risk unnecessarily slowingthe recovery of the labor market. But incoming data have confirmed thatemployers are still struggling to hire even as consumer prices are rising at the fastest clip in nearly 40 years. Rising rents and tangled supply chains could continue to push up inflation. And she’s running into more people like that woman in Walgreens.

Ms. Daly, who spoke to The New York Times in two interviews in November and December, has shifted her tone particularly dramatically in recent weeks. How she came to change her mind highlights how policymakers have been caught off guard by the persistence of high inflation and are now struggling to strike the right balance between addressing it while not harming the labor market.

“My community members are telling me they’re worried about inflation,” Ms. Daly said last week. “What influenced me quite a lot was recognizing that the very communities we’re trying to serve when we talk about people sidelined” from the labor market “are the very communities that are paying the largest toll of rising food prices, transportation prices and housing prices.”

Ms. Daly said it was too early to know when the first rate increase would be warranted, but suggested she could be open to having the Fed begin raising rates as soon as March. READ THE FULL ARTICLE ->

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