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Tesla finally ‘voluntarily’ recalls Model S/X with touchscreen problem after getting arm twisted by NHTSA

Tesla announced that it will finally “voluntarily'” recall all Model S and Model X vehicles with touchscreen problems due to the eMMC issue in the media unit after getting pressured by NHTSA to do so.

Tesla eMMC defect

Owners of older Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles have been reporting some issues with their MCUs.

The touchscreen becomes less responsive, the power-up time becomes longer, the screen freezes and has to be rebooted, or there is even total failure of the MCU unit.

Some owners believe that it is a problem with the embedded multimedia-card memory (eMMC) in the MCU and that it is being overwritten to the point of failure.

It has been known as the “eMMC failure” problem.

Tesla introduced a new MCU in 2018 that doesn’t have the same problem, but owners of older (2012 to March 2018) vehicles are still experiencing the problem and having to replace the unit out of warranty, despite seeing Tesla’s mistake as the source of the problem instead of a normal issue that occurs over time.

Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that it has launched an official investigation into the matter, and earlier this month, the regulators officially asked Tesla to recall the affected vehicles.

The agency confirmed that it met with Tesla over the issue and evaluated all the information, but it determined that losing capacity of the MCU is a safety issue since a lot of important functions go through the system such as windshield defogging, audible chimes, and even turn signals can be impacted.

The automaker confirmed to the agency that there’s a defect rate of up to 30% on some built months already, and that eventually all media units will break over the eMMC overwriting problem.

Tesla has been resisting the recall by trying to offer an extended warranty, and as we recently reported, we believed it was likely that NHTSA ended up forcing it on the automaker.

Tesla finally recalls the Model S and Model X over the issue

Today, Tesla started contacting owners of Model S and Model X vehicles with the problematic eMMC to confirm that there’s going to be 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.

In the email obtained by Electrek, Tesla confirmed that it recently pushed a software update that helped retain most of the functionalities that were the main concerns for NHTSA.

Tesla wrote:

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.

However, the automaker is still going to perform a recall on the defective part.

Tesla writes in the 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.

However, the automaker has also been offering complete MCU upgrades, which fixes the problem and gives owners more features, and that could result in lower recalls.

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