Thursday, July 25

Vision Pro Goggles are not Safe While Driving a Tesla, U.S. Says

Videos being shared across social media this week depict an almost dystopian, futuristic scene: drivers of Teslas in Autopilot mode while wearing Apple Vision Pro headsets, seemingly unaware of the road in front of them.

The videos led federal transportation officials to issue warnings.

But are people really mindlessly riding around in Teslas in Autopilot mode, wearing Apple’s futuristic new goggles? Or is it all just a bit? Part of a never-ending cycle of people doing silly things for clicks, likes, views and clout?

The new goggles have a feature that merges digital apps and one’s surroundings into one immersive space, and videos of people wearing them in strange settings have started to crop up across the internet since they were released on Feb. 2.

Several of the videos taken in cars appear staged, and in many, it is clear that someone other than the driver is recording. The videos are not widespread. Still, they seemed reckless enough for Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, to weigh in on social media.

“Reminder — ALL advanced driver assistance systems available today require the human driver to be in control and fully engaged in the driving task at all times,” Mr. Buttigieg said in a post on X that included a video of a driver using a headset in what appeared to be a Tesla Cybertruck pickup.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also chimed in on Tuesday. The agency said in a statement that “driving while wearing a V.R. headset is reckless and disregards the safety of everyone on the road.”

Dante Lentini, 21, who posted a video of himself behind the wheel of a moving Tesla while wearing a Vision Pro headset, said in an interview, “It was all just for content.”

In the video, Mr. Lentini appears to be typing while wearing the headset as introspective piano music plays in the background.

“Think different,” Mr. Lentini wrote on X, in an apparent nod to a famous Apple advertising campaign from the late 1990s. His video has been viewed more than 24 million times. (One commenter wrote, “I genuinely hope you get arrested for this.”)

Later in the video, Mr. Lentini appears to have been pulled over in a parking lot, and there are police vehicles in the background with their lights on. The way the video is edited, it suggests that Mr. Lentini was pulled over for driving while wearing the headset.

But Mr. Lentini said in the interview that the police were responding to something else in the area at the time, and that he and someone else recorded them in the “right time, right moment.”

He also said that, despite how it appears in the video, he did not have any apps turned on in the headset and he wore it for only about 30 seconds.

“That was just for the video,” he said.

Across social media, videos and images have circulated not just of people driving while wearing the Vision Pro headset, but also while dining at restaurants and working out at the gym.

Is this the future? A world in which people can’t step away from the digital realm long enough to focus solely on everyday tasks such as socializing or exercising?

Eric Decker, a YouTube and TikTok creator who goes by the name Airrack, posted a video poking fun at an “average day for an Apple Vision Pro owner,” showing him wearing the headset while lifting weights at the gym, getting his hair cut, going through airport security, walking down a street and even showering. (The Vision Pro is not waterproof.)

“I truly feel most of these videos are skits,” Mr. Lentini said. “You can just tell.”

Still, skit or not, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Tuesday that distracted driving is no joke. In 2021, more than 3,500 people in the United States were killed in crashes involving distracted driving, and more than 360,000 were injured, the agency said.

“There are no fully autonomous vehicles available for sale today,” the agency said.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Apple declined to comment about the videos, but referred to safety guidance on its website about how to properly use Vision Pro.

“Never use the device while operating a moving vehicle, bicycle, heavy machinery, or in any other situations requiring attention to safety,” the company says.

Mr. Lentini said that the Vision Pro headset has a driving mode feature intended for passengers that disables the use of many apps.

Apple has billed Vision Pro as a “spatial computing” device that allows users to watch videos, send emails and surf the internet in a immersive virtual reality. The headsets start at $3,499.