The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has asked Tesla to recall some 158,000 Model S and Model X vehicles that suffer from failing display consoles, according to a letter released by the agency on Wednesday. The faults in the so-called “media control units” in these vehicles can cut off the owner’s access to their vehicle’s backup camera, climate control and Tesla’s Autopilot driver system, increasing the risk of a crash, the safety agency said.
The problem at the heart of the lack that NHTSA wants Tesla to rectify involves worn-out flash memory chips used in the screens from the 201
Tesla confirmed to NHTSA that all devices with this chip “inevitably fail” according to the agency and also provided a statistical model showing expected weekly repairs lasting from 2020 to 2028, with most errors occurring in 2022.
NHTSA opened a formal investigation into the problem in June last year and said Wednesday that the probe is still running despite the request that Tesla recall the vehicles. It is unclear whether Tesla will comply. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the letter, NHTSA acknowledges that Tesla has issued over-the-air software updates designed to reduce errors, but the agency believes they do not go far enough – especially because the problem reduces access to the backup camera, which is now a federal mandated feature . “[T]these updates are procedurally and substantially inadequate, ”the agency writes.
While Tesla popularized the use of large touchscreens in cars, it had more than one problem with these earlier models. In addition to the flash memory problem at the heart of NHTSA’s recall request, early Tesla displays also suffered from bubbling and yellow ribbons as they did not conform to typical car standards.