— A Tesla recall for touchscreen failures has been ordered for nearly 144,000 vehicles in the U.S. and Canada, including 2012-2018 Tesla Model S and 2016-2018 Tesla Model X vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into touchscreen failures in 2012-2015 Model S cars in June 2020.
Tesla responded by sending NHTSA documentation showing touchscreen complaints, repair invoices and all information about eMMC flash memory devices used for the media control units.
But NHTSA upgraded the touchscreen investigation in November 2020 to include 2012-2018 Model S and 2016-2018 Model X vehicles.
Safety regulators learned about 7,777 touchscreen warranty claims, 4,746 non-warranty touchscreen claims and nearly 2,400 complaints received about touchscreen failures.
NHTSA also determined there was too great a risk to safety because of all the features lost when the screens go black, especially the rearview cameras and controls for the wipers, defrosters and heating and cooling systems.
The government is concerned with the lifespan of the touchscreen components as customers complain about losing the touchscreens when the vehicles are less than four years old.
According to Tesla, the Model S and Model X touchscreens are equipped with NVIDIA Tegra 3 processors and integrated 8GB eMMC NAND flash memory devices. But the components wear out based on the number of program/erase cycles.
Tesla told NHTSA the "eMMC wear condition neither constitutes a defect nor presents an unreasonable risk to safety," a view clearly not held by safety regulators.
Tesla argues the eMMC flash memory device is rated for an "industry-standard 3,000 Program/Erase (“P/E”) cycles," and the automaker has deployed several over-the-air firmware updates for the touchscreens and the features that can be lost when the eMMC devices reach their end.
In one case, Tesla released 2020.24.6.11:
"[T]he defrosting/defogging settings will maintain the user’s selection for the duration of the drive cycle in which the eMMC wears out. On all subsequent drive cycles, the defrosting/defogging settings will automatically set the ambient cabin temperature to 22 degrees C (71.6 degrees F) and initiate windshield defrosting/defogging to ensure sufficient windshield visibility."
Tesla added the update makes sure all controls for the exterior lights and chimes will continue to function if the eMMC fails.
Tesla says it also released update 2020.48.12:
"[T]he rearview camera display will continue to display on the center display after eMMC wear-out and an alert will now appear on the center display anywhere from one to six months before the eMMC reaches accumulated lifetime wear to notify most consumers of the wear status and to inform them that they should contact Tesla Service."
According to the automaker, it doesn't know of any crashes, injuries or deaths caused by touchscreen failures because drivers can still use the mirrors, look over their shoulders, use the turn signals and manually clear the windshields.
And in March 2018, Tesla stopped using the NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor with a Hynix 8GB eMMC and and started using the Intel Apollo Lake processor with a 64GB Micron eMMC. The automaker also announced a warranty program for vehicles built prior to March 2018.
The U.S. Tesla infotainment system recall includes about 135,000 vehicles, and a Canadian recall involves 9,000 cars and SUVs.
The Tesla touchscreen recall is expected to begin March 30, 2021, as technicians replace the visual compute module (VCM) daughterboards with enhanced eMMC controllers.
Tesla Model X and Model S owners may call 877-798-3752 and ask for information about touchscreen recall SB-21-21-001.