Tesla’s failing touchscreen display issue is real, and it’s coming back to haunt the company.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is asking Tesla to recall a total of 158,000 cars — namely, some Model S cars with model year 2012 through 2018, and Model X cars with model year 2016 through 2018 — over potentially dangerous display failures.
The issue first came to light in June, when the NHTSA opened an investigation into complaints about touchscreens in Tesla dying. Since the rearview camera video is displayed on that touchscreen, having it malfunction while driving could lead to a crash.
In a letter sent to Tesla, dated Jan. 13, the NHTSA explains that the display issues stem from flash memory issues in Tesla’s media control unit (MCU), causing it to fail prematurely. The agency acknowledges that Tesla has implemented “several over-the-air updates in an attempt to mitigate some of the issues,” but believes that the updates are “insufficient.”
The letter mentions past correspondence between Tesla and the NHTSA on the issue, with Tesla acknowledging that all MCU units will inevitably fail some day, with failures peaking in early 2022 and gradually declining “until (near) full part turnover has been accomplished in 2028.”
The agency now requires Tesla to either conduct a recall or provide an explanation of its decision, including additional analysis “beyond Tesla’s past presentations.”
Tesla Model 3 is not mentioned in the letter. It’s worth noting that, unlike the Model S and Model X, which have another display in front of the driver that keeps showing key info even if the touchscreen fails, Model 3 presents all the data on its single touchscreen display.