A massive 17-inch touchscreen is one of the signature features of the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X electric cars. Known as the media control unit (MCU), it’s been pushed to its limits by the various new features Tesla has added over the years, so Tesla started offering an upgrade for older cars last year — and it just cut the price of that upgrade by $1,000.
The price of the upgrade has dropped from $2,500 to $1,500 — with no explanation from Tesla. The listed price on the company’s website was simply changed, according to Electrek. The upgrade switches out the MCU in older Model S and Model X electric cars with a more powerful version that can handle newer software features and is aimed at providing better touchscreen response as well.
Tesla has a habit of changing prices for its vehicles and specific features on a whim, but this change coincides with calls from the federal government for a recall on touchscreens in older Tesla EVs.
Earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asked Tesla to recall about 158,000 vehicles, including the 2012-2018 Model S and 2016-2018 Model X, over issues with the MCU. Touchscreen failure affects several safety-related features, including the rearview camera, Autopilot driver aid, turn-signal chimes, and the windshield defroster and defogger, the agency noted. That’s the downside to Tesla’s tcouhscreen-centric approach, which minimizes analog controls in favor of the screen.
The source of the problem is the touchscreen’s NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor and its integrated 8GB flash memory chip, which can fail when it reaches capacity, usually after five or six years of average use, the NHTSA said in its recall request. As of July 2020, Tesla data showed MCU failure rates of 17.3% for affected Model S vehicles, and 4.1% for affected Model X vehicles, according to the agency. In 2018, Tesla introduced a more powerful version of the MCU, which has been used on Model S and Model X electric cars built after that point.
The NHTSA added that Tesla tried to solve the problem with an over-the-air (OTA) software update, but said that proved “substantially inefficient.” Tesla now has until January 27 to respond to the agency’s request for a recall.
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