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Transportation & Infrastructure

Tesla recalls 130,000 vehicles over touch screen problems

wrecked Tesla
NHTSA
/
Wikipedia
May 7, 2016 crash in Willison, Florida after Tesla in autonomous mode failed to stop when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of it at an intersection.

In the latest of a mounting series of recalls, Tesla is recalling about 130,000 vehicles across its U.S. model lineup because their touch screens can overheat and go blank.

Federal regulators say the computers may not cool enough when the vehicle's batteries are being fast-charged.

Losing the touch screens can also shut down the Teslas' rearview camera displays, increasing the risk of a crash.

In February, Tesla recalled nearly 579,000 vehicles in the U.S. because a “Boombox” function could play sounds over an external speaker and obscure audible warnings for pedestrians.

This violated federal safety standards that require pedestrian warning noises for electric cars, which make little noise when in motion, the agency said.

Also in February, Tesla had to recall nearly 54,000 vehicles equipped with “Full Self-Driving” software that allowed the vehicles to run through stop signs at low speeds, without coming to a complete halt. Selected Tesla owners are “beta testing” the software on public roads, but the cars can’t drive themselves despite the name.

The company also had to recall over 800,000 vehicles because seat belt reminder chimes may not sound when the vehicles are started and the driver isn’t buckled up. And nearly 27,000 vehicles were recalled because the cabin heating systems may not defrost the windshield quickly enough. All were to be fixed with online software updates.

Safety advocates and automated vehicle experts said Tesla is pushing the boundaries of safety to see what it can get away with, but now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is pushing back.

After a NHTSA inquiry in December, Tesla disabled a function that let drivers play video games on center touch screens while the vehicles are moving.

In November, NHTSA said it was looking into a complaint from a California Tesla driver that the “Full Self-Driving” software caused a crash. The driver complained to the agency that a Model Y went into the wrong lane and was hit by another vehicle. The SUV gave the driver an alert halfway through the turn, and the driver tried to turn the wheel to avoid other traffic, according to the complaint. But the car took control and “forced itself into the incorrect lane,” the driver reported. No one was hurt in the Nov. 3 crash.

NHTSA also is investigating why Teslas using the company’s less-sophisticated “Autopilot” partially automated driver-assist system have repeatedly crashed into emergency vehicles parked on roadways. The agency opened the investigation in August, citing 12 crashes in which Teslas on Autopilot hit parked police and fire vehicles.

In the crashes under investigation, at least 17 people were hurt and one was killed.

For the touch screen issue that prompted the most recent recall, Tesla said that it found the problem in routine endurance testing. The company said it has no reports of crashes or injuries, but it received 59 related warranty claims from January to early May.

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