Tesla Under Investigation for Touchscreen Failures

Tesla is currently facing investigations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) following several reports of touchscreen failures from its Model S vehicles. The Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) received 11 reports of Media Control Unit (MCU) failures from models produced between 2012 and 2015. Investigations into the defect began on Monday.

The issue stems from Tesla’s 8GB eMMC NAND, a flash memory device integrated into the car’s NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor. Although the MCU has a finite lifespan, it was reported to have died prematurely “due to memory wear-out of the eMMC NAND flash.” According to NHTSA, the flash drive may deteriorate “after periods of progressively degraded performance (e.g., longer power-up times, more frequent touchscreen resets, intermittent loss of cellular connectivity, loss of navigation).”

The MCU failures are marked by the touchscreen’s audio and visual features, including the rear-view camera, navigation, and web browsing. Other effects include loss of climate control and limitation of battery-charging features. As noted by the defect summary, “MCU failure does not affect vehicle control systems (e.g., braking, steering, speed control) or supplemental restraint systems.”

Reports of the defect were allegedly received by the ODI “over the past 13 months at service intervals ranging from 3.9 to 6.3 years.” NHTSA’s inquiry into the reports is in a “preliminary examination” stage, which will “assess the scope, frequency, and safety consequences of the alleged defect.”

Last December, the NHTSA previously investigated autopilot failures of Tesla Model 3 cars, some of which allegedly resulted in fatal crashes.