A new problem has arisen.
Tesla is no stranger to US government investigations regarding both financial and safety-related issues. So the California-based automaker likely wasn't entirely surprised to find out the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a preliminary investigation into potential touchscreen failures on the 2012 to 2015 Tesla Model S. This could ultimately affect some 63,000 vehicles. What's the precise problem?
The large touchscreen Media Control Unit (MCU) in these older Model S vehicles could be defective, specifically the rearview display. "Failure of the touchscreen results in loss of rear camera image display when reverse gear is selected, resulting in reduced rear visibility when backing," the report states.
Apparently, owners have been complaining about this issue for a few years now.
The flash memory device in the Nvidia processor, which powers the display, has a finite lifespan due to the number of times it's been programmed and its memory erased. The MCU is suspected of failing prematurely due to memory wear-out. A few problems owners have experienced include slower display load times during vehicle startup, frequent system resets, loss of cellular connectivity and navigation, while a complete MCU failure is also possible. Because the backup camera projects an image to the main screen, this could be a safety issue.
All new vehicles in the US are legally required to have backup cameras as standard features. A host of other functions are also centralized in the MCU, such as climate control.
Needless to say, this is an issue that must be taken seriously. So far, the NHTSA says it's received 11 complaints regarding MCU failure, but several owners have been speaking out about the problem for some time already.
The NHTSA further notes this same Nvidia processor was used in nearly 159,000 2012-2018 Model S and 2016-2018 Model X vehicles, so it's possible there could be more complaints in the years ahead as these systems age. Tesla replaced the MCU in 2018 with the MCU 2, which can be purchased as a replacement for $2,500.
Until the NHTSA issues its final report, no recalls on the matter can be expected.