with CLIPREVIEWED learn the articleTesla Recalls 135K Model S, Model X EVs Over Faulty Flash Memory
Tesla has agreed to recall roughly 135,000 Model S and Model X electric vehicles due to faulty display consoles.
The move comes less than three weeks after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requested a recall of 158,000 EVs, citing a “potential safety-related defect” concerning media control units in certain model year 2012-18 cars.
At the heart of the problem is the Nvidia Tegra 3 processor’s integrated 8GB eMMC NAND flash device, which gets overwritten each time the vehicle is started. Overwrite the drive enough times, and it will reach capacity and break down, causing Tesla’s connected MCU to go blank. A vacant touch screen isn’t the end of the world—except when it controls certain aspects of driving performance, including loss of the rearview/backup camera and defogging/defrosting settings, as well as certain Autopilot and turn-signal functionality.
In a recent letter to NHTSA, made public on Tuesday, Tesla’s acting general counsel Al Prescott said the automaker “respectfully disagrees” that eMMC wearout constitutes a defect. Still, “in the spirit of cooperation and to administratively conclude this investigation,” not to mention “provide a better experience for the customer,” the company agreed to conduct a voluntary recall. It will also provide a “free hardware remedy” in addition to existing over-the-air firmware updates.
This voluntary recall could cost the company upwards of $250 million, Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid told The Wall Street Journal. Tesla did not immediately respond to PCMag’s request for comment.
During its investigation, NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) learned that the expected usage life rating for the 8GB eMMC NAND flash memory device is approximately 3,000 “P/E,” or Program-Erase cycles. Which, according to the agency, would take only five or six years to reach. A majority of folks, however, prefer to get more than half a dozen years’ use out of their expensive cars—most of which should last twice as long.
“NHTSA’s tentative conclusion identifies certain safety impacts, without clear support for finding they have been caused by a defect,” Prescott wrote in the letter. “Further, Tesla disagrees with NHTSA’s tentative conclusion that these concerns, even if they do occur, are an unreasonable risk because drivers are still able to safely operate the vehicle.”
The eMMC flash memory is “inherently subject to wear, has a finite life (as NHTSA itself acknowledges), and may need replacement during the useful life of the vehicle,” according to Prescott. Tesla even provided a statistical model showing the number of projected weekly media control unit repairs from 2020 to 2028—expecting replacement rates to peak in early 2022.
“Tesla recognizes that even when a component is not designed to last the life of the vehicle, a defect may still be found if it wears prematurely. However, that is not the case here,” the letter continued. “It is economically, if not technologically, infeasible to expect that such components can or should be designed to last the vehicle’s entire useful life.”
As of August 2020, ODI counted 12,588 incidents, complaints, field reports, and warranty and non-warranty claims related to MCU exchanges; it predicts even 2018 models will experience “100 percent failure” of the infotainment system within a decade.
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