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Thousands of Tesla vehicles are going to break thanks to cheap worn-out memory chips

Tesla pushed out an over-the-air update to help curb the issue, but drivers could still be affected.

tesla model 3 on road
Image: Unsplash

In today’s episode of “why you shouldn’t go with the lowest quote for components,” Tesla has been caught using cheap eMMC cards in the infotainment center of approximately 159,000 vehicles.

These chips are usually used in low-end smartphones or tablets and have a minimal lifespan once data starts writing to them. The real problem here? Tesla also saves system logs to this chip, putting it under extreme write cycles.

The affected vehicles are from both the Model 3 and Model X range, built between 2012 and 2018. If the eMMC NAND fails, drivers will see critical issues like sensor problems or even component failures. The NHTSA has received over 16,000 reports of system failures due to this issue.

The thing is, it didn’t have to be like this. Even your cheapest home router uses more expensive NAND to write its logs because eMMC is notoriously flimsy. That no-brand tablet you bought that died after a month? Probably eMMC. The same goes for that notebook that promised fast SSD speeds but never delivered.

On the affected Tesla models, issues from the loss of the rearview camera feed, to window demisting, or even failure of the Full Self Driving system can occur. That’s not good if you’re actually driving at the time, and it makes me wonder if some of the Autopilot-related crashes were actually storage failures.

Newer Tesla’s don’t suffer from the same issue, as the Intel-powered center console used in recent years thankfully don’t use eMMC for storage. Tesla has reportedly sent out an over the air update to reduce the number of writes sent to the flash chips, but we’ll have to see what they come up with as a fix.

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