USA regulators ask Tesla to recall 158,000 cars

Remigio Civitarese
Gennaio 14, 2021

In a letter to Tesla, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that a problem with the cars' display screen and related failures result in loss of rearview camera and other safety-related vehicle functions.

The US agency has now asked Tesla to initiate a recall to notify all owners, purchasers, and dealers of the subject vehicles of this safety defect and provide a remedy.

The agency wouldn't comment beyond the letter, which is a rare step towards a public hearing and eventual legal action.

Though small by number, the action represents a relatively large recall for Tesla, which has far fewer cars on the road than other automakers.

Tesla baulking at recalling about 159,000 vehicles with potentially defective touch screens, so USA safety regulators are moving to force the company to take action, in news announced recently.

The letter seeks a request from Tesla by January 27th.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NHTSA says the screens can stop working, posing a safety risk.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked Tesla, on Wednesday, to bring in the Model S and Model X vehicles. It upgraded the probe to an engineering analysis in November.

"ODI believes that a five- or six-year life expectancy for a component integral to providing the driver with safety functions is insufficient", department director Stephen Ridella wrote in the January 13 letter. "If this image is not available, the risk of crash increases potentially causing injury or death".

The cars in question - Model S sedans built between 2012 and 2018 as well as Model X SUVs from 2016 to 2018 - are fitted with a Nvidia Tegra 3 processor with an integrated flash memory device.

The failure rate "in this investigation is significantly greater than the failure rate for vehicles involved in prior recalls involving similar behavior", the statement read.

NHTSA noted that "Tesla has implemented several over-the-air updates in an attempt to mitigate some of the issues. but tentatively believes these updates are procedurally and substantively insufficient".

"I think it's planned obsolescence, which requires physical replacement of a part which Tesla tried to gloss over by sending a software update", said Jason Levine, executive director of the nonprofit Centre for Auto Safety.

Borris, who reviewed the letter, called it very thorough and said NHTSA has a strong case should Tesla decide to challenge the agency in court.

The Tesla vehicles that lose touchscreen use may see driver assistance Autopilot system and turn signal functionality impacted due to potential loss of audible chimes, driver sensing, and alerts associated with these vehicle functions, NHTSA said.

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