The Feds Want Tesla To Recall 158,000 Cars Because Touchscreen Failures

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Image for article titled The Feds Want Tesla To Recall 158,000 Cars Because Touchscreen Failures
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked Tesla to recall 158,000 Model S and Model X cars because of “media-control unit” — the touchscreen and associated tech— failures.

You can read NHTSA’s full letter to Tesla here, but here is the meat of it:

Certain of these Model S and X vehicles were equipped with an NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor with an integrated 8GB eMMC NAND flash memory device (the “subject vehicles”). Part of this 8GB storage capacity is used each time the vehicle is started. The eMMC NAND cell hardware fails when the storage capacity is reached, resulting in failure of the MCU. The MCU is the vehicle’s display screen, which controls certain aspects of performance subject to Federal motor vehicle safety standards (“FMVSS”)1 and other safety-relevant functions. Specifically, failure of the MCU results in loss of the rearview/backup camera2 and loss of HVAC (defogging and defrosting setting controls (if the HVAC status was OFF status prior to failure). The failure also has an adverse impact on the Autopilot advanced driver assistance system (“ADAS”), as well as turn signal functionality due to the possible loss of audible chimes, driver sensing, and alerts associated with these vehicle functions.

ODI has tentatively concluded that the failure of the media control unit (MCU) constitutes a defect related to motor vehicle safety. Accordingly, ODI requests that Tesla initiate a recall to notify all owners, purchasers, and dealers of the subject vehicles of this safety defect and provide a remedy, in accordance with the requirements of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. §§ 30118-30120.


Tesla doesn’t do model years, but NHTSA still does, saying the cars involved are 2012-2018 Model S and 2016-2018 Model X.

Over 12,000 Model Ss and Xs have had this failure happen (that we know of), as my colleague Jason Torchinsky reported in November. Also as Jason wrote then, this is a weirdly preventable issue, since Tesla knew that the flash memory would fail at some point, but miscalculated how long it would take in the life cycle of the car.


Tesla already announced a warranty adjustment program to address the issue, but that only applies if your touchscreen is bricked because of this; a recall would cover those people and everyone else. I emailed Tesla for comment and will update this post if they respond.