The NHTSA has finally made Tesla fold as the automaker has announced it will “voluntarily’” recall all Model S and Model X vehicles with touchscreen problems. The touchscreen problems owners are experiencing are caused by the eMMC issue in the media unit.
Last year, the NHTSA opened a preliminary evaluation on the touch screen failures Tesla customers were experiencing with the MCUv1. More recently, Tesla received a letter from the agency requesting that they conduct a recall of all 159,000 units of the Model S and Model X equipped with the infotainment system.
There have been reports from some Tesla owners claiming their touchscreen becomes less responsive, the power-up time becomes longer, the screen freezes and has to be rebooted, or the MCU unit completely fails altogether. Now known as the “eMMC failure” problem, several owners believe the problem stems from the embedded multimedia-card memory (eMMC) in the MCU being overwritten to the point of failure.
In 2018, Tesla changed the media units inside its Model S and Model X in order to equip the vehicles with more powerful ones that can handle major software upgrades and new features that require more computer power. The upgraded media units come equipped with awesome new Tesla features including Tesla Theater, integrated DashCam, and Sentry Mode. Features that models produced before 2018 lacked until last year.
However, owners continued to report the problem and some even took it upon themselves to have their MCU replaced out of warranty. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) then launched an official investigation regarding the MCU failure, followed shortly after by a recall request.
After meeting with Tesla, the NHTSA concluded that total failure of the MCU poses a safety risk as is responsible for several important functions including windshield defogging, audible chimes, and turn signals. Tesla confirmed that the defect rate is about 30% and with the overwriting problem, all media units will break eventually.
Now it appears that Tesla has finally given in as the automaker started contacting owners of Model S and Model X vehicles with the problematic eMMC to confirm they are issuing a recall: “Tesla has decided to voluntarily recall certain Model S and Model X vehicles built before March 2018 that are equipped with an 8GB embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC) in the media control unit because the eMMC may malfunction due to accumulated wear. Our records show that you own a Model S or Model X affected by this recall.”
Tesla also confirmed it recently pushed a software update that helped retain most of the functionalities that were the main concerns for NHTSA (via Electrek): “If your vehicle is operating software release 2020.48.12 or newer and the eMMC malfunctions, then the rearview backup camera will remain available, the exterior turn signal lighting will remain functional, and the windshield defogging and defrosting controls will automatically default to a preset cabin temperature to ensure windshield visibility. If your vehicle is operating software older than 2020.48.12 and the eMMC malfunctions, then you may lose these functionalities. Please ensure that your vehicle is operating software release 2020.48.12 or a newer release. To find your current software release, complete an update or review a list of possible malfunctions, please visit our Support page. If the touchscreen is unavailable, then please perform a shoulder check and use your mirrors to back up safely.”
Interestingly, the automaker will still recall the defective part. Tesla wrote in an email to affected owners: “Additionally, Tesla will upgrade, free of charge, the eMMC on your vehicle with an enhanced 64GB eMMC. There is no need at this time to contact us as we will notify you when the parts become available. We kindly ask that you do not schedule a service appointment unless you receive a vehicle alert signaling memory storage device degradation or are actively experiencing a persistent blank center display that does not recover after restarting the touchscreen. If you already paid for repairs that addressed the condition covered by this recall, you may be eligible for reimbursement. Tesla will share details about reimbursement and eligibility by the end of March 2021. There could be over 100,000 Model S and Model X vehicles to be recalled.”
Tesla owners can also opt for a complete MCU upgrade which recently received a price cut from $2,500 to $1,500. The upgrade comes with several new feature and should take care of the “eMMC failure” problem.