Tesla launches US recall over failing infotainment screens

Customers are reportedly being prevented from using certain safety features, leading US regulators to push for Tesla recall

Tesla has issued a recall for almost 135,000 Model S and Model Xs in the United States, following disclosure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that infotainment displays are at risk of failing. The recall currently only affects cars built before 2018.

Teslas are heavily dependent on using infotainment screens for key vehicle functions. Faulty infotainment units in these earlier cars have reportedly been preventing owners from using certain safety features such as the car’s rear view camera, and essentials like the indicators. A failure also means that drivers cannot access the windscreen defrost function, which the NHTSA said could pose a significant safety concern in adverse weather.

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The inquiry has been ongoing since June of last year, and initially, Tesla tried to remedy the issue with over-the-air software updates and targeted repairs. However, NHTSA wasn’t satisfied with the quick fix and has requested an organised recall.

NHTSA has narrowed the issue down to a memory device. The infotainment hardware is only rated for 3,000 program-erase cycles before wearing out – after which it struggles to prevent the data it stores from becoming corrupted. This means the infotainment screen doesn’t have access to all of its software, which causes the loss of functions.

Tesla says it will upgrade this old 8GB memory device with a new 64GB unit as part of the recall. However, Al Prescot, Vice President of Tesla’s legal department, said the hardware troubles demonstrated the problem of “electronic components becoming increasingly more complex, while the expected useful life of vehicles has grown substantially.”

Prescot also said that Tesla’s first-generation infotainment system was only expected to last between five and six years under average daily usage conditions, due to the finite capacity of the unit’s storage hardware. 

Whether or not Tesla will extend the recall to UK cars is yet to be confirmed. The company is expected to provide an update on the situation later this week

Tesla has had some further struggles – the launch of the new Roadster has been pushed back to 2022. Read all the latest news here

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