The feds have asked Tesla to recall about 158,000 cars over fears that their touch-screen displays could malfunction after a few years.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, The screens pose a safety risk because they allow drivers to monitor several features in Tesla’s Model S sedans and Model X SUVs, including the backup cameras and air conditioning systems that de-fog the windows.
On Wednesday, authorities told the electric-car maker in a letter that if the displays malfunction, drivers could lose control of certain functions, raising the risk of a crash.
NHTSA asked Tesla to either recall the risky cars and inform their owners of the issue or explain why there is no need for a recall. The vehicles affected include Model S’s from 2012 through 2018 and Model X’s from 2016 through 2018.
At the root of the problem is the processor Tesla uses in the displays. Each has an Nvidia-made memory chip with eight gigabytes of storage, part of which, according to the letter, is used up every time the car is switched on.
Eventually, the processor reaches maximum potential, which can occur after five to six years, and then the screen becomes a useless black rectangle.
“During our review of the data, Tesla confirmed that all units would inevitably fail given the memory device’s finite storage capacity,” Stephen Ridella, director of NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation, said in the letter.
NHTSA, which began investigating the problem in June, said Tesla tried to fix the issue with “over-the-air” software updates. Still, those are “procedurally and substantially inadequate,” the agency said.
Whether Tesla will request a recall for the cars affected is unclear. The business, headed by billionaire chief executive Elon Musk, did not respond to an early Thursday request for comment.
The letter from NHTSA came less than two months after Tesla recalled over 9,500 vehicles in the US over concerns about parts of their roofs falling off and loose bolts interfering with the driver’s ability to steer.
In October, over suspected suspension issues, the company recalled about 30,000 vehicles in China, which Tesla reportedly believed were caused by “driver abuse” rather than any defect.