- Tesla was asked by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall around 158,000 vehicles over faulty touchscreens, the agency said in a letter to the company Wednesday.
- The NHTSA said the media control units on certain Tesla vehicles failed after their memory ran out, causing issues with the backup camera, defogging and defrosting settings, Autopilot system, and turn signals.
- The issue impacted certain 2012-2018 Model S vehicles and 2016-2018 Model X vehicles, which used the NVIDIA flash memory devices that failed — after just five to six years on average.
- Vice News first reported on the issue in October 2019, prompting the NHTSA to open an investigation in June 2020.
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The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration sent a letter to Tesla on Wednesday asking the company to recall around 158,000 vehicles over faulty touchscreen hardware.
The agency said it was “investigating a potential safety-related defect concerning incidents of media control unit (“MCU”) failures” that had resulted in problems with the backup camera, defogging and defrosting settings, Autopilot, and turn signals.
The issue, which stemmed from the MCUs failing after exceeding their storage capacity, impacted certain 2012-2018 Model S and 2016-2018 Tesla Model X vehicles.
The touchscreens on those models are powered by an NVIDIA processor which stores data in an attached “flash memory device.” But those devices have a finite amount of storage capacity, and according to the NHTSA’s investigation, once they filled up — which happened after just 5 to 6 years, on average — they shut down, causing the MCUs to fail and creating other safety issues.
The MCU failures resulted in the rearview/backup camera screen going “black,” an inability to control defogging and defrosting settings, and the loss of some Autopilot alerts and turn signal functionality, which the agency said could “increase the risk of crash.”
The NHTSA said its Office of Defects Investigation had “tentatively concluded that the failure of the media control unit (MCU) constitutes a defect related to motor vehicle safety.” While the letter doesn’t formally require Tesla to order a recall, the automaker must submit additional justification if it decides not to, and the NHTSA can still take further action if it isn’t satisfied with Tesla’s response.
Vice News originally reported on the issue in October 2019, citing a Tesla repair expert who said: “When this burns out, you wake up to a black screen [in the car’s center console.] There’s nothing there. No climate control. You can generally drive the car, but it won’t charge.”
The NHTSA said it opened its own investigation on June 22, 2020.
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