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Tesla Model S Touchscreen Failures Prompt Federal Investigation

Christian Wardlaw | Jun 24, 2020

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating infotainment system failures in 2012 to 2015 model-year Tesla Model S vehicles. An estimated 63,000 Teslas could be at risk of system failure due to “memory wear-out,” according to Automotive News.

Tesla Model S Touchscreen Failures

A preliminary investigation sparked by 11 complaints from Model S owners, the NHTSA probe will examine premature failure of the technology. In a Model S, the touchscreen and infotainment system control numerous functions ranging from traditional music and navigation features to climate control and reversing camera operation. The NHTSA says that when the technology fails it does not affect vehicle control systems.

Nvidia Corporation provides the Tegra 3 processor and 8GB flash memory device for the 2012-15 Model S’s infotainment system. The NHTSA says flash memory devices do not last forever, with performance degradation and ultimately system failure an inevitability. According to the NHTSA, this is likely to occur “after periods of progressively degraded performance (e.g., longer power-up times, more frequent touchscreen resets, intermittent loss of cellular connectivity, loss of navigation)."

Tesla Model S owners cited loss of charging ability, disabled safety and driving assistance systems, and an inability to operate climate functions. Owners must pay the replacement cost for the system when the vehicle is out of warranty. According to InsideEVs, the cost to replace the components could run $1,800 plus tax and labor.

Earlier in 2020, Tesla began offering Model S owners an invitation-only infotainment system upgrade. For $2,500 (plus tax) the company would replace the aging technology that powers the touchscreen, updating the cars with the modern features offered to Model 3 and Model Y customers.

In the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), Tesla unofficially ranked last among brands for quality during the first 90 days of ownership. J.D. Power cannot officially rank Tesla models because the automaker will not allow it to survey owners in 15 states.

The information in this article came from the NHTSA, J.D. Power, and several automotive publications.

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