Study Finds Autopilot Drivers Are Not Paying Attention Despite Warnings from Tesla
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into 63,000 Tesla Model S cars after reports of media-control unit failures that led to the loss of the use of touchscreens. According to a Reuters news report, the agency said the preliminary evaluation, covering 2012-2015 mode year vehicles, comes after it got 11 complaints alleging premature failure of the media-control unit due to memory wear-out.
What the Probe Entails
This complete unit failure results in the loss of audible and visual touchscreen features such as infotainment, navigation and web-browsing and most importantly, the loss of the rear-camera image display when it is in reverse gear. NHTSA said the failure does not affect vehicle control systems. 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. Tegra 3 processor with an integrated 8GB eMMC NAND flash memory device, NHTSA said. The flash devices have a finite lifespan based on the number of programs or erase cycles. Failures resulting from memory wear-out are likely to occur after periods of progressively degraded performance such as longer power-up times, more frequent touchscreen resets, intermittent loss of cellular connectivity and loss of navigation.
Some complaints said the failure could result in loss of charging ability and that other safety alerts could be affected. One driver said he could not clear up his fogged windows because he could not change climate controls. Another complaint said the failure of disabled safety monitors associated with Tesla’s driver-assist feature, Autopilot. The complaints also said Tesla requires owners to pay to replace the unit once the warranty expires.
Auto Product Liability Issues
NHTSA’s investigations typically take a long time to culminate in action. Many automakers don’t issue recalls unless they absolutely need to or are forced to do so by an agency such as NHTSA. It is important to remember that your vehicle could be defective or have defective parts even if it hasn’t been recalled by the manufacturer or is not currently being investigated by NHTSA.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective auto, you may be able to file an auto product liability lawsuit against the automaker seeking compensation for your injuries, damages and losses. An experienced auto defect lawyer will be able to help you better understand your legal rights and options.