Hong Kong Tesla electric car drivers may be prevented from using the calendar app on the vehicle’s display, following an objection from the Transport Department. The department says the function fails to comply with relevant laws.
“At the request of the Hong Kong Transport Department, the Calendar app has been removed with this release,” read a message from Tesla on its cars’ digital panels after drivers attempted to execute a recent software update. “The Hong Kong Transport Department has determined that the Calendar app has no bearing on the drivability of the car and therefore should not be offered in Tesla vehicles in Hong Kong.”
“Tesla Motors regrets that this feature – which is available to customers in the rest of the world – will no longer be available to Hong Kong customers.”
The Transport Department told HKFP that Regulation 37 of the Road Traffic (Construction and Maintenance of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap 374A) prohibits any person from installing a visual display unit on a motor vehicle at any point forward of the driver’s seat, or where the screen is visible to the driver whilst in the driving seat.
Visual display units may only be permitted under the law if it shows information about:
- The current state of the vehicle or its equipment;
- The current closed-circuit view of any part of the vehicle;
- The area surrounding the vehicle;
- Information about the current location of the vehicle;
- or any other information related to navigation.
The department said that Tesla decided to remove the non-compliant function and may take follow-up action in accordance with the law if any other vehicle models are found to have contravened requirements.
No effect upon safety
A drivers’ group, Tesla Guide HK, urged drivers to send complaints to IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok, the Transport Department, and the Ombudsman, saying that they could not understand the decision.
“There has never been any data showing the calendar app affected traffic safety,” a complaint letter read. “The function increased efficiency for drivers, and has been satisfactory for users and the operator.”
It also questioned whether a vehicle’s massage, music, bluetooth, seat adjustment and loudspeaker functions should be removed, as those functions do not have any direct bearing on the drivability of cars.
In a statement released later, the Transport Department said that the requirement was not a new practice.
“In fact, the TD clearly conveyed to the Tesla in 2014 the clear requirement that the installation of visual display unit on vehicles must comply with the above requirements under the Hong Kong legislation,” it said.
“Hence, the decision made by Tesla this time to remove the calendar app from the new model and Tesla vehicles in use is based on legal requirements, instead of what Tesla told vehicle owners recently that ‘The calendar app has been removed as the Transport Department determined that the calendar app has no bearing on the drivability of the car’.”
It added that many jurisdictions such as some states in the US, Japan, Australia and Singapore impose different levels of restrictions on the use of visual display unit while driving for driving safety reasons.
Mok said that he has received complaints from multiple drivers and related organisations and will ask the department and the Legislative Council’s Panel on Transport to follow up on the issue.
“This government and many top officials have ‘no bearing on the drivability of Hong Kong’ – we want to remove them as well,” he joked on social media. “If the government cannot solve problems, they are the problem.”
He also questioned what the role of the Innovation and Technology Bureau was regarding the issue.
The incident followed a previous controversy caused by the department’s decision to ban an autopilot function in Tesla vehicles. The function was ultimately approved after five months.
The Innovation and Technology Bureau told HKFP: “The Government encourages the development and application of technologies. However, all technological applications, regardless of their nature, must be lawful.”