Latest Tesla Update Adds Video Games From Steam, Cabin Monitoring, New Light Show

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Tesla has introduced its Holiday Update which adds a bevy of features to newer versions of the Model S and X – including fresh light show features, Apple Music, an in-cabin camera view (extremely invasive and creepy), and video games from Steam. Though you may want to pull back on any fantasies you might have had about gaming on the go, even if you’re a passenger, because Tesla already got into hot water with the NHTSA for adding similar features in the past and ultimately had to remove some of them.

Those distracted driving concerns were indeed valid. However, it still seems like federal regulators often fixate on Tesla while the entire industry attempts to cram everything it can into centrally mounted infotainment screens that are unquestionably more distracting than the more basic displays and physical buttons of yore. There are certainly exceptions to that rule; Fiat Chrysler Automobiles took heat for allowing early incarnations of Uconnect to stream video while vehicles were in motion. But aftermarket companies have been putting video players and video games into automobiles since the mid-1990s, with there being very little anybody can do about it unless you were caught playing in the middle of your trip.

Tesla showcased the individual components of the update this week, starting with the in-cabin camera view. The automaker tied it to Dog Mode (basically a climate control system to keep your pet comfortable whenever you leave them in the vehicle) to show how easy it would be to keep tabs on your furry friend. Though I suppose the system could just as easily be used to remotely monitor vehicle occupants. While your author could see the utility of this for theft prevention, the potential for privacy violations is so vast with something like this that it basically guarantees I will never purchase a modern Tesla product.

More exciting and pointless was the updated Light Show. Tesla has released a few incarnations of this particular feature over the years with the latest allowing owners to set up a synced show between multiple vehicles. This is going to be something for people who own multiple Teslas and need to create a holiday video to send to their friends and family that also reminds everyone that they bought a Tesla product and are therefore better people.

Lastly is the gaming component of the update. Steam is a video game digital distribution service and storefront owned and operated by Valve. It’s also the largest digital distribution platform for PC gaming in human history and manages to dominate the market so completely that it’s kind of amazing that it doesn’t see more antitrust complaints. Though it’s ultimately a convenience service for those who want to keep their games across multiple platforms, making it an ideal inclusion for Tesla.

Owners who also happen to be gamers should be able to seamlessly access their accounts and continue playing whatever they were doing on their PC. Tesla vehicles can even interface with Bluetooth controllers, allowing occupants to take their preferred wireless joystick setup with them. While the hardware requirements for some games could give the Tesla some trouble, the automaker showed a vehicle running Cyberpunk 2077 and it’s not exactly Pong in terms of graphical complexity. In fact, the game became kind of infamous for how badly it struggled to run on older hardware when it was launched. So it seems like the Model S and X are up to the task of playing the latest games – assuming they were new enough to qualify for the update to begin with. Our guess is that you probably need to have the most recent processor the company has chucked into their cars. Older Intel-equipped vehicles likely don’t qualify. So, if you’re not running the AMD Ryzen processors, you could be out of luck this Christmas.

Then again, we don’t know how regulators are going to react. The NHTSA threw a hissy fit the last time Tesla put gaming features into its products, so we might be seeing a second round. However, since the automaker pushed an update that effectively prohibits gaming from taking place while a vehicle is in motion, regulators may see no need to take action. Regardless, it’s still a nice feature to have on an EV that’s stuck at a public charging station. The Steam library is about as expensive as they get and should have something to suit your needs – whether your gaming aspirations stopped with Frogger or you’re someone who only plays the latest titles.

Additional features were also mentioned. The Holiday Update also adds Zoom Calls using the in-cabin camera, a Track Mode for the Model Y, restores the UI cards deleted from last year's update across the lineup (a giant mistake in terms of making the central screen easier to use and one we're glad to see remedied), and adds the infamous "Emissions Testing Mode" that literally has the vehicle making fart noises that everyone can hear. It's the kind of pointless gimmick that will make some people cringe while others praise its alleged cleverness.

Though what's really clever is how well Tesla has managed to embrace the same methodology as smartphone manufacturers and social media companies. By rotating features and constantly changing the user interface in a bevy of minor ways, the automaker is effectively creating a never-ending sense of newness without actually having to provide tons of novel features. It's what every manufacturer seems to desperately want right now but something Tesla already appears to have mastered.

[Image: Tesla]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Apr 24, 2023

    So whose driving when Tesla owners are gaming?

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  • VoGhost Fantastic work by Honda design. When I first saw the pictures, I thought "Is that a second gen Acura NSX?"
  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.
  • FreedMike Said this before and I'll say it again: I'm not that exercised about this whole "pay for a subscription" thing, as long as the deal's reasonable. And here's how you make it reasonable: offer it a monthly charge. Let's say that adaptive headlights are a $500 option on this vehicle, and the subscription is $15 a month, or $540 over a three year lease. So you try the feature for a month, and if you like it, you keep it; if you don't, then you discontinue it, like a Netflix subscription. In any case, you didn't get charged $500 up front the feature. That's not a bad deal.In my case, let's say VW offers an over the air chip reflash that gives me another 25 hp. The total price of the upgrade is $1,000 (which is what a reflash would cost you in the aftermarket). If they offered me a one time monthly subscription for $50 to try it out, I'd take it. In other words, maybe the news isn't all bad.
  • 2ACL A good car, but - at least in this configuration -not one that should command a premium. Its qualities just aren't as enduring as those of Honda's contemporary sports cars. For better or worse, this is a formula they remain able to replicate.
  • Jalop1991 I just read that Tesla's profits are WAY down "as the electric vehicle company has faced both more EV competition from established automakers and a slowing of overall EV sales growth." This Cadillac wouldn't help Tesla at all, but the slowing market of EV sales overall means this should be a halo/boutique car. Regardless, yes, they should make it.