The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has asked Tesla to recall about 158,000 Model S and Model X vehicles that could suffer from dangerous electronic system failures. The vehicles in question could see their electronic display consoles and touch screens fail over time. According to reports from various news outlets, the failures of so-called “media control units” in these vehicles can cut off access to the backup camera, climate controls, and Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, increasing the risk of a car accident.
Dangerous Scenarios for Drivers
The Verge reports that NHTSA essentially wants the automaker to fix worn-out flash memory chips used in the displays of the 2012-2018 Model S sedans and 2016-2018 Model X SUVs. Each time a vehicle is turned on, it eats away at the total capacity of the flash memory chip onboard the processor, which powers the displays. When that capacity is reached in about five or six years, the displays become bricked, leading to system failures. Tesla confirmed to NHTSA that all units that have this chip will “inevitably fail.”
The Tesla vehicles that lose touchscreen use may also see the driver assistance Autopilot system and turn signal functionality affected because of the potential loss of audible chimes, driver sensing, and alerts associated with these vehicle functions. NHTSA said the loss of alerts tied to systems like Autopilot increases the risk of a crash occurring because drivers may not be aware of system malfunctions.
NHTSA initiated a formal probe into this issue last June and said that the investigation is still ongoing in spite of the request to Tesla to recall the vehicles. It is not clear if Tesla will issue the recall. NHTSA says that Tesla has issued over-the-air software updates to fix these issues, but those don’t go far enough because the problem cuts access to the backup camera, a feature that is now mandated under federal law.
Timely Recall to Correct System Failures
There is no question that Tesla should issue a prompt recall in this case because of the potential for critical system failures that could lead to a tragic accident, be it the failure of the backup camera or Autopilot failure. As it is, there are a number of issues with Autopilot that put drivers and others on the roadway at risk. With this added problem, the risk of a crash could be even higher. Federal law requires automakers to issue a timely recall for defective vehicles and promptly provide recall repairs free of charge to consumers.
If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of an auto defect, you may be able to seek compensation for the injuries, damages, and losses suffered. An experienced auto defect lawyer will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options.