Tesla Investigated Over Touchscreen Failure Complaints

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
tesla investigated over touchscreen failure complaints

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Tuesday it has launched an investigation into Tesla’s Model S. Frequent complaints have arisen of the vehicle’s media control unit going on the fritz and knocking out the vehicle’s touchscreen.

We’ve seen several outlets minimize the issue by suggesting gaps in Tesla’s Autopilot should be seen as more pressing. Apparently, many see potentially faulty touchscreens as small potatoes. But we can’t agree; not when they happen to operate the brunt of the car’s auxiliary functions, and we’ve heard reports of this very problem for years. If you need a refresher course, we covered the matter extensively in the fall of 2019. The gist is that the embedded Multi-Media Controller (eMMC) on MCUv1 units seem to be overworked. Constantly logging data is tough on the system, and this setup didn’t appear to be capable of handling the high load, resulting in flash-memory wear.

This leads to all sorts of problems. At first, owners may only notice the system being less responsive — like a worked-to-death computer. The entire display will eventually brick itself, however, resulting in a blank screen you cannot interface with and the complete loss of some of the car’s most important features. That includes one’s ability to recharge the vehicle, in some instances.

According to Reuters, the NHTSA says the preliminary evaluation covers around 63,000 units from the 2012-2015 model years and comes after the agency received 11 complaints claiming premature failure of the media control unit due to memory wear-out.

From Reuters:

Tesla used the same unit in 159,000 2012-2018 Model S and 2016-2018 Model X vehicles built by Tesla through early 2018.

The memory control unit uses an Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) Tegra 3 processor with an integrated 8GB eMMC NAND flash memory device, NHTSA said. Nvidia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The flash devices have a finite lifespan based on the number of program or erase cycles, NHTSA said.

Failures resulting from memory wear-out “are likely to occur 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 agency said.

Safety concerns revolve around cars losing their display for rear-facing cameras (now required by law) and consumers complaining it’s impossible to defog windshields with the center console inoperable. Fortunately, the NHTSA said the failure does not affect vehicle-control systems. However, we doubt anyone would spend more time driving around in a busted Model S with these kinds of issues more than absolutely necessary.

[Image: JL IMAGES/Shutterstock]

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  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jun 24, 2020

    eMMC is embedded Multi-Media Card, not controller. Controller is just part of MMC. MMC defines I/O protocol command sequence. SD card (whch is only standard that survived memory card wars) is based on MMC with added ancient security protocol and encryption that become obsolete long time ago.

    • See 3 previous
    • Mcs Mcs on Jun 25, 2020

      @mcs actually, I meant 3990x and an AMD TRX40.

  • NigelShiftright NigelShiftright on Jun 24, 2020

    Hey, at least Matt gets it right that the item was -not- a noose. Over at J*l*p**k (Automotive News As Reported By Oberlin Sophomores) they're saying "Hey, some deplorable planted a noose in that garage TWO YEARS AGO and NASCAR just let it sit there!" I am not making this up.

  • Bobbysirhan I'm surprised by the particular Porsches to make the list, and also by the Cadillac. Most of all, I'm shocked that the 2-door Mini Cooper is on here. I didn't even know they still made them, let alone that anyone was still buying them.
  • Ajla I assume the CT5 is on the list due to the Blackwing variant.It would be interesting to take the incentives that existed in October 2019 and include that in an analysis like this as well. The thing about the used market is that while you'll pay less in total dollars, in some cases the percentage increase from 2019 is even worse than with new cars. Buying a Saturn Relay for $6k isn't exactly a winning move.
  • VoGhost Reminder: dealers exist to line the pockets of millionaires who contribute to local politicians.
  • Cprescott The pandemic changed the sales game. No longer do dealerships need inventory. After two years people are accustomed to having to order what they want and then extorted on the price by the dealer for that privilege. Now used cars with 75k are selling for $5k more than I paid for my 21k, 2016 model back in January 2019. I pray my car won't get totaled and I have but 13 payments left to make on it. I may never buy another car again.
  • Grein002 I hope you meant "take the Ranger out behind the *barn*" rather than "bar". I think something completely different happens "behind the bar".