Transport Department believes Tesla’s popular app is a distraction for drivers, much to Tesla’s and some drivers’ dismay.
Local Tesla drivers will be unable to utilise a popular app following objections of the Transport Department. According to the department, the interactive Calendar app has “no bearing on the driveability of the car”. Therefore, it has forced the electric vehicle manufacturer to remove it from a recent software update package.
In response to a Harbour Times inquiry, the Transport Department replied that under Regulation 37 of the Road Traffic (Construction and Maintenance of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap 374A), visual displays situated in front of the driver’s seat can only contain information that assists in navigating the vehicle, such as information about the current state of the vehicle, a closed-circuit view of the surroundings, or data about the vehicle’s location.
Some Tesla drivers have questioned the department’s enforcement of this regulation. Mark Webb-Johnson, Chairman of Charged Hong Kong, also known as Hong Kong Electric Vehicle Association, pointed out that Tesla vehicles are not the only ones in Hong Kong that offer functions not compliant with the regulations.
“The following functions are present in many vehicles on the roads of Hong Kong today, but are not permitted under Cap 374A Regulation 37: time of day, outside temperature, weather icons or other indicators…, album artwork…, mobile phone integration – in particular image [or] information of callers – and audio selection and control,” he told Harbour Times. In the department’s decision, he sees selective enforcement.
Tesla driver Bill Stacey has a different perspective. “The government has removed functionality from the vehicle that was very useful to the driver,” he said. “The calendar function provided information in a manner that was safe, time saving and ensured that the driver did not need to look at an iPad or smartphone. There can be no sensible case that this is a safety issue. All vehicles have radios, sound systems and passengers that could be more distracting.”
Stacey also asserted that the department’s decision goes against the government’s effort to promote technological development in the city. “[Hong Kong] wants to be a ‘smart city’, he said. “It has just shown to thousands of owners that the government can be very ‘dumb’.”
Other drivers, such as Model S 85D driver Henry Law, are more sanguine. “The removal of certain features such as the calendar app are understandable, since I have always thought the big screen is a constant distraction,” he remarked.
According to media reports, the rollback took place after Tesla introduced an autopilot update. The company was clearly dismayed by the department’s decision, citing Hong Kong as the only place in the world that rejects introduction of the company’s latest software feature.