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Tesla asked to recall Model S, Model X over touchscreen failures

Roadshow logo Roadshow 2021-01-13 Steven Ewing
a car parked on the side of a road: The Model S' large touchscreen is the subject of this problem. Manuel Carrillo III/Roadshow © Provided by Roadshow The Model S' large touchscreen is the subject of this problem. Manuel Carrillo III/Roadshow

Following an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration late last year, Tesla is being asked to recall approximately 158,000 Model S and Model X vehicles due to touchscreen failures. Tesla Model S sedans from the 2012 to 2018 model years and Tesla Model X crossovers from 2016 to 2018 are affected by this recall, according to a NHTSA document published Wednesday (PDF).

In its detailed report, NHTSA explains an initial investigation was opened due to "concerning incidents of media control unit (MCU) failures resulting in loss of rearview camera and other safety-related vehicle functions" in these electric vehicles. In addition to the rearview camera, the outage can affect things like the windshield defogger, turn signal chimes and the Autopilot driver-assistance system.

NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation notes that the touchscreens in these Tesla models are equipped with Nvidia Tegra 3 processors with an integrated 8GB memory card. The ODI report says the memory card's cell hardware "fails when the storage capacity is reached, resulting in failure of the MCU." Upon conclusion of its probe, ODI reports "the failure rate in this investigation is significantly greater than the failure rate for vehicles involved in prior recalls involving similar behavior."

a red car on a dirt road: The Model S' large touchscreen is the subject of this problem. © Manuel Carrillo III/Roadshow

The Model S' large touchscreen is the subject of this problem.

Tesla distributed a number of over-the-air updates in an effort to remedy this problem, according to the report, but NHTSA says these updates were "substantively insufficient." Should Tesla choose not to initiate a formal recall, the automaker must submit a full explanation and supplemental analysis to NHTSA by Jan. 27, or it could face further penalties.

Tesla is unable to comment on this story, as the company does not operate a public relations department.

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