Tesla says all MCU units will fail, offers $2,500 upgrade
NHTSA investigation becomes engineering analysis
Complaints of dead center display screens in Tesla models has lead to an investigation by US auto safety regulators, after receiving more than 12,000 claims and complaints about the touchscreens dying.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into the touchscreens of model year 2012-2018 Tesla Model S and 2016-2018 Tesla Model Y vehicles in June after multiple reports of media control unit failures in those models. The number of complaints reached 537 direct to the NHTSA, 2,399 to the manufacturer, and 12,523 warranty and non-warranty in-field replacements.
That has moved the investigation from preliminary evaluation to an “engineering analysis,” reports Car and Driver, which means that the agency is one step away from issuing a recall. There are an estimated 159,000 vehicles equipped with the screen in question.
While a touchscreen might seem out of the realm of a safety investigation, Tesla uses the screen to control nearly every function of the vehicle, including climate controls and to show the reversing camera view, which makes it a safety issue.
The NHTSA report says data shows failure rates of more than 30 percent in certain build months and that failure accelerates after three to four years in-service.
The issue is with the hardware in the MCU, which uses memory that can only be re-written a finite number of times. Tesla’s design writes to the memory daily, and eventually, there are no memory blocks that can be used. Then the system suffers from intermittent function losses and eventually has the chance for complete failure. The NHTSA report says that Tesla indicated failures are likely to continue “until 100 percent of units have failed.
Tesla replaced the MCU with a new version in 2018 and is currently offering that version to owners of older vehicles for US $2,500.