Tesla Replacing Faulty Cameras Used by Autopilot

Tesla is having its service centers replace faulty cameras on the Model S, X, and 3 as a “goodwill” gesture. The affected cameras have faulty circuit boards that cause blank or choppy video feeds on the main display of Tesla vehicles’ computer system, impact visibility in the vehicle’s blind spots, or generate error messages saying that the Autopilot’s functionality is limited.

The problem impacts printed circuit boards (PCBs) on several hundred Model S, X, and 3 vehicles manufactured at the Fremont, California, factory. Most modern electronics contain PCBs, which were developed in the early 20th century and improved on since then. They are favored for their small and lightweight design and reliability.

The faulty PCB in the repeater cameras used by Tesla vehicles may cause them to malfunction well before they might reasonably need to be replaced. Faults in the PCB commonly interrupts “electrical continuity” that makes it possible for the components of modern electronics to work smoothly together.

The goodwill repair is offered to customers who complain about having to replace an important component of the Autopilot’s functionality so soon. It’s usually the step taken before a voluntary recall or warranty might kick in.

An internal Tesla memo directed service centers to conduct the goodwill repair as necessary. An employee who spoke on condition of anonymity told the press about the memo.

Tesla characteristically did not respond to requests for comment about the goodwill repair of the faulty vehicle cameras.

Previous recalls of Tesla vehicles include voluntary recalls in the United States and China to fix a problem with the suspension and a recall in China to fix an issue with the Autopilot. Tesla has also issued recalls to fix issues with some vehicles’ roofs, the braking system for the Model 3 and Model Y, and a seat belt issue.

Tesla typically coordinates with regional regulators like China’s State Administration for Market Regulation and the United States’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue formal notices of the recalls.

Current recalls related to Tesla vehicles (and any other consumer product) in the United States can be found on the very retro-looking Recalls.gov.

Despite the issues, Tesla vehicles remain top sellers among electric vehicle models, with Tesla topping its own company records for quarterly deliveries for nearly the past year. An analysis by IHS Market shows that 79% of electric vehicles sold in the United States in 2020 were Tesla vehicles.

Tesla’s branding as an early mover in the electric vehicle market has certainly been successful, with CNBC writers saying that “Americans aren’t buying electric vehicles, they’re buying Teslas.”

Consumer Reports recently restored its “Top Pick” rating for the Model 3, which also took the top slot on Cars.com’s list of most American-made cars. Tesla also manufactures some components used to assemble cars at the Fremont factory at nearby factories.

This makes Tesla vehicles especially attractive to car buyers who care about buying American-made vehicles, though it may be helpful for sales to this target audience if it could get manufacturing for the Cybertruck up and running.