The Telsa logo superimposed on top of a white brick wall

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Is one in every of Tesla’s infotainment techniques faulty by design? That is a query the Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration hopes to reply. It has began an engineering evaluation after a whole bunch of buyer complaints of bricked techniques resulted in a preliminary investigation in June.

NHTSA thinks it is aware of what the issue is: an 8GB eMMC NAND flash reminiscence chip—an SD card in different phrases—with a finite variety of learn/write cycles, fitted to its Media Management Unit. The MCU usually writes logs to this chip and, inside three or 4 years, reaches the lifetime variety of cycles. At this level the touchscreen dies, taking with it capabilities just like the automotive’s backup digicam, the power to defog the home windows, and in addition the audible alerts and chimes for the driving force aids and switch alerts.

After the regulator’s Workplace of Defects Investigation acquired 537 complaints, it requested Tesla if it knew of any extra issues with the Nvidia Tegra 3-based system, which is fitted to roughly 158,000 Fashions S (2012-2018) and X (2016-2018). Tesla did, handing over 2,399 complaints and area studies, 7,777 guarantee claims, and 4,746 non-warranty claims.

The finite—and quick—lifespan of those infotainment techniques is a comparatively well-known downside inside the Tesla neighborhood. A video on the favored YouTube channel Wealthy Rebuilds that delved into the issue in Might 2019 has racked up greater than 669,000 views:

The dialogue of the infotainment system failures begins round 9 minutes in.

As that video notes, and as Tesla informed NHTSA, the time to failure for an MCU depends upon how a lot its automotive has been in operation. Every day drive time, each day cost time, and streaming music over the Web are all elements, Tesla informed the regulator.

This is not the primary time that Tesla’s alternative of consumer-grade electronics, versus automotive-grade, has gotten it in bother. A separate downside impacts the 17-inch touchscreen, which can fail due to high temperature—the type of temperature skilled inside a parked automotive throughout summer time, versus an air-conditioned workplace.

However how the infotainment system’s code was written is an element right here, too. In 2018, a poster on the One thing Terrible boards who claimed to be a former Tesla software program developer whose NDA had now expired, detailed a litany of comparable issues with the corporate’s method to software program, including other problems caused by excessive logging.

Tesla has tried to treatment the issue with at least six OTA updates between July 2019 and October 2020. These have lowered the quantity of logs being written, improved error correction and storage methods, modified the management logic for the flip alerts, and even added a default to set the local weather management to 71.6˚F (22˚C) within the occasion of an MCU failure (to stop windshield fogging). In Might of this yr, Tesla started producing spares that now use a 64GB Micron eMMC SD card as a substitute of 8GB SD playing cards from Hynix.

The automaker informed NHTSA that as of firmware 2020.20, every block of NAND flash ought to solely obtain 0.7 learn/write cycles a day, which might due to this fact take between 11 and 12 years earlier than the chip reached its finish of life. Nonetheless, house owners who use their vehicles extra typically may see this time earlier than failure halved.

Nonetheless, Tesla additionally informed NHTSA that “the MCU failures are more likely to proceed to happen in topic autos as autos proceed to function and use obtainable reminiscence within the 8GB eMMC NAND flash reminiscence till one hundred pc of models have failed.” Given the safety-critical nature of the issue—specifically the loss of defogging—an official recall could properly happen within the coming months.

Ars couldn’t attain Tesla for remark because the automaker eliminated its entire press office in October.

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