• You’ll soon be able to play Steam video games in specific Tesla automobile models. 
  • There’s a growing movement to provide high-tech entertainment inside cars. 
  • But federal regulators have raised safety concerns about gaming inside moving vehicles.

Someone playing video games in the car.

Playing video games on handhelds in the backseats of cars is a long tradition during road trips, but Tesla and other automakers are taking the experience to a new level. 

The electric car maker has launched Steam integration inside its Model S and Model X electric cars, with thousands of games now playable. The gaming system uses the massive computing power inside a Tesla model to power its functions. 

“We are seeing a unique shift to a more immersive in-car experience, including more electric vehicles taking the road, which creates more opportunity for downtime whether watching a movie or playing a video game when charging vehicles,” Christian Steinmann, the CEO of ClearMotion, a company that builds car user experiences, told Lifewire in an email interview. “Additionally, we’re seeing the digital world blend more seamlessly with our vehicles leaving us connected digitally at all times.”

Driving Video Entertainment

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has long been trying to turn cars into gaming rigs. The company said in 2018 it was adding Atari games to its automobiles. In the years since “Fallout Shelter” and other games have been made available for Tesla models. 

“Steam is here—bringing thousands of games to new Model S & X vehicles,” Tesla wrote recently on Twitter. 

When the gaming feature was launched, it was possible to play the games while the car was moving. But Tesla changed the software so you can only play while the vehicles are stopped due to safety concerns raised by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"When it comes to driving, safety is always the number one priority," Steinmann said. "Today, the incorporation of video games and movies is meant to be utilized only when parked or charging your vehicle. We all want a better vehicle experience, but we must use technology wisely and when it is appropriate."

Tesla’s enthusiastic adoption of Steam for its car lineup is part of a growing movement to put high-tech entertainment into automobiles. Joe Giranda, the director of sales and marketing for car transport company CFR Classic, told Lifewire via email that he expects many car companies to expand their in-car entertainment offerings. 

"It would be easy for other brands to incorporate gaming console technology into their vehicles," he added. "What Tesla is doing is not exactly innovative, as most cars already have screens, and different car brands can license gaming technology. However, Tesla would be the first brand to pursue this venture directly."

The Metaverse in Your Car

The Audi-backed startup holoride combines real-time vehicle information with a virtual reality (VR) headset to create an immersive entertainment experience. The system was recently enabled for specific Audi models. 

Someone wearing HTC Vive VR glasses and playing a game while riding in a car.

The holoride gaming system lets you use an HTC VIVE flow headset to play games while the car is moving. The games are synced to the movements of a vehicle to create what Holoride calls elastic entertainment.

“With the introduction of holoride, we are not only elevating that stale experience; we are redefining how you spend your time on the go,” Nils Wollny, the CEO of holoride, said in the holoride news release. “I couldn’t be more excited for riders to finally enjoy the thrills of the Motorverse for themselves.”

Entertainment in cars doesn’t stop even when cars are parked. ClearMotion is trying to capitalize on trends transforming how we spend time in our vehicles as they move from gas pumps to electric chargers. The company claims some electric cars can take 40-50 hours to charge when empty. “We are spending more time in our cars than ever before, and utilizing this in-car technology will create a better experience for passengers,” Steinmann said. 

The company says it's creating an immersive 4D in-car experience allowing drivers to watch movies or play video games while charging their vehicles. 

"Along with these capabilities, we are adding motion back into the vehicle to enhance the immersive experience," Steinmann said. "Ever watched Jurassic Park while your car is charging and experiencing coordinated movement with the movie? With our technology, you can. Our technology allows you to experience the movie with all of the motion and sounds right in your vehicle."

Source