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Tesla's Screen Saga Shows Why Automotive Grade Matters (thedrive.com)
246 points by tomohawk 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 186 comments

The first time I discovered automotive grade was when I was designing my own in-car infotainment system using a HTML based interface, a few years ago. It worked really, really well for a long time. And then, summer came, I got the magic smoke from my unit. Turns out, the amplifier IC died. But, I did more research as amplifiers were actually supposed to heat up and I had cooling fans in place. What killed it wasn't the heat, but the sudden variations in temperature - Eg. when you use A/C for a while and leave your car in the hot sun. The manufacturer literally recommended to use the automotive grade version of the IC for in-car usage. Silly me.

In the end, I never really got to finish the project because of the rabbit hole it became.

But remember, I'm a hobbyist. I have an electronics background, but that's about it. To see a huge gigantic company of this size and reputation pursue this kind of mistake that has real impact on paying customers is astounding. I mean, I like Musk and the work he's doing, but this doesn't seem right (just a personal opinion). I hope the customers don't have to bear this for Tesla's mistake.

> To see a huge gigantic company of this size and reputation pursue this kind of mistake that has real impact on paying customers is astounding.

It's a conscious decision, probably due to cost/production volume concerns. Musk had pulled this kind of tricks before with lithium-ion batteries before (remember the early Tesla fires?), they were initially using consumer grade laptop batteries (with a highly energy density/weight ratio at the time but more prone to fire and explosion comparing to other manufacturer's automotive grade lithium-ion battery chemistry, granted Tesla might have improved.)

And honestly, the cost of automotive thermal grade 2 certified central display for 17-inch TFT screen was probably (still is I suspect) cost-prohibitive for a low margin auto industry.

What's really astounding to me is the "cabin overheat protection" feature. As the article pointed out, what this really is Tesla trying to prevent the non-automotive grade screen from failing, even though it's touting for protecting dogs and children at extremely hot summer days. It regulates the cabin temperature at +40C, but that's the temperature children's organ will start failing.

> What's really astounding to me is the "cabin overheat protection" feature. As the article pointed out, what this really is Tesla trying to prevent the non-automotive grade screen from failing, even though it's touting for protecting dogs and children at extremely hot summer days. It regulates the cabin temperature at +40C, but that's the temperature children's organ will start failing.

While the article seems well researched and very informative otherwise, 40C is the internal body temperature at which a child's organs will start failing.

The internal air temperature of the car (regulated to 40C in this case) will of course have an effect on the passenger but does not necessarily lead to them reaching a body temperature equivalent to the ambient air because the body possesses cooling mechanisms.

40C still seems problematic for children though. Quoting https://www.uptodate.com/contents/heat-stroke-in-children:

> Evaporation is the principal mechanism of heat loss in a hot environment, but this becomes ineffective above a relative humidity of 75 percent. The other major methods of heat dissipation; radiation (emission of infrared electromagnetic energy), conduction (direct transfer of heat to an adjacent, cooler object), and convection (direct transfer of heat to convective air currents); cannot efficiently transfer heat when environmental temperature exceeds skin temperature (typically 35°C or 95°F).

I used to work summers in the Caribbean - organs failing at 104 is a pretty much total lie

>organs failing at 104 is a pretty much total lie

Actually it is a very well recorded phenomenon. Just because you and the people you work with may have adapted well does not mean that it is universal by any means. People die in heat waves regularly; normally diabetics with peripheral neuropathy who can't sweat enough to drop their internal temperature or people with heart problems who can't take the additional stress of lowering their temperature. [1] [2] [4]

"Heat related mortality is similar in hot and cold parts of western Europe and in hot and cold parts of the United States. This implies that the populations of hot regions have adjusted by physiological or other means to their hotter summers."[3]

Also, the metric for organs failing at 104 is entirely correct, just not with regards to external body temperature. Your organs will undoubtedly fail if your internal temperature is 104F/40C. I've had sepsis with a temperature of 40.9C and I would have died if it wasn't for quick treatment from the doctors.

Quick anecdote; if you're ever in the situation where your body temperature starts to get that high, scream and shout until you get an actual doctor on hand - I had nurses who had no idea of the severity of my condition and would have left me to die through shear negligence. I was lucky enough that the surgeon for my leg injury decided to check how it was healing, and rushed to call in a team of 4 or 5 doctors to stabilise me as I went into shock from hyperthermia. Spent the next 24 hours covered with cold towels and ice swapped out regularly by some very apologetic nurses.

[1] https://emj.bmj.com/content/22/3/185

[2] https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/07/130716-heat...

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC192832/

[4] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320226.php

> Also, the metric for organs failing at 104 is entirely correct, just not with regards to external body temperature.

Then it's not correct in this context, where everyone else was talking about external temperature.

104F external is still relevant in this context if we're talking about venerable people that can't regulate their internal temperature down from this; those being some children, elderly, diabetics, or pets. Their temperature keep rising until it hits this 104F. That's why I commented - it's not just semantics.

Agreed. I lived in the UAE where summers are consistently 40C+. No organs failures as far as I can remember.

The author specifically gave the external source[1] about this claim and it provides context.

The title reads: Prevent Child Deaths in Hot Cars. It's advisory for child death in hot cars. Your anecdotal doesn't invalidate any of the health advisories in the link below.

[1]: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on...

Cool, thanks for clarifying!

The author specifically said, "child's organ", not adults.

'Cabin Overheat Protection' does kind of make me feel like they've lost sight of what EVs and the Tesla are all about.

The planet is warming up because we cant provide enough clean energy to feed demand.

I can't help but feel that having everyone's car air-condition themselves when not in use, so that you have a screen large enough to play space invaders, electric or not, is really bringing us closer to solving that.

A child can survive longer than an adult at high temperatures, as long as they have access to water.

40C is very survivable. Lots of places on earth regularly hit 40C

Doesn't it depend on the age of the child? Presumably a baby can't manage their internal temperature as effectively as an adult.

> Presumably a baby can't manage their internal temperature as effectively as an adult.

For overheating, I think they can. A much higher surface area to volume ratio means even a small amount of sweating can give a lot of cooling.

40C in a closed car with no ventilation.

Except that the whole thing is bunk… "overheat protection" is, by definition, ventilation. It is also not designed to protect children or animals, but simply to keep the car cooler.

"Dog mode" keeps the car at the temperature set by user, typically 20-25C

Wow, that's horrible. Very dark.

'automotive grade' my *ass

Opel Ampera (~Chevy Volt) has a plastic ball race in the electric motor, that fails at ~ every 100k km. The US market had a metal ball bearing initially, the EU market always had a plastic one. GM/Opel saved like 1$ on this ball bearing, but it costs the owner hundreds to replace it every couple of years, as it takes hours to replace it. This is a major drivetrain issue IMO, and it was not handled by a recall (at least not in Europe)

The same car has a steering lock with the cheapest carbon-brush motor that you can get, that wears out over a couple of years. When it fails, the car is not driveable, and you have to replace the whole steering lock. Again, no recall by GM/Opel.

These things are not built to last, the design goal is to be as cheap as possible.

"Move fast and break things" works for software you deploy on your infrastructure since you can always make changes quickly at very little cost. Website 5 pixels off? Make a CSS change and roll it out to your systems.

To execute the same thing with hardware credibly, you have to accept the idea of a mass recall and replacement of faulty parts. That works for many companies like Anker, which goes out of their way and proactively replaces parts.

You can't apply the software deployment model and be nonchalant and brusque when customer issues arise. The combination just serves to turn off the masses.

I would assume it's because there is little cross-pollination between modern tech workers and automotive focused engineers. It explains why most cars' user-facing electronics are so terrible and why Tesla made such an obvious quality mistake.

This seems different than Tesla simply overlooking a quality requirement because of a lack of communication.

This is the top of the top, Musk himself, saying "screw that quality requirement, this is good enough", and plowing forward regardless (and having it bite them later).

Who knows how many other components they were able to cut corners with for now. And how many will start to fail in the coming years.

Imagine that your company is young, lean and quick while everybody else is old and big and maybe a bit lazy. You'll inevitably become a bit lazy yourself, never thinking further than "old and big and maybe a bit lazy" when everybody else is doing a thing one way. Why waste energy on looking for other reasons they might have for doing it that specific way when you already have a perfectly fine explanation? A perfectly fine explanation that is also irresistibly flattering?

Telling apart "rules" that exist because nothing else works from those that are just inertia is difficult.

The thing is, not really. Components can be tested. Experience with environmental testing is everywhere.

>When Tesla performed the tests, the electronics ended up working just fine.

Tesla's environmental testing just failed.

Doesn't necessarily indicate good things about the longevity of a new Tesla.

Don’t tear down fences before you understand why they were built

Well said/quoted. Corollary: never stop trying.

Don't make universal proclamations, ever.

It can't be any worse than other manufacturers. I've owned Volkswagens for 15 years now and I've replaced 4 EGR valves and the a 200 EUR piece of plastic in the windows every two years.

This is in addition to things breaking which weren't designed to break in the first place.

I got the impression that much of developing Teslas was doing things nobody dared to do before, and the screen probably wasn't the only non-standard thing Musk had to extract from the industry with bare hands, even if the industry was telling Tesla not to. There wouldn't necessarily be a Tesla if all they ever chose to pick was standard automotive grade parts from stock.

Sound like those temperature differences could cause condensation to short the device. How is that usually prevented?

Asking probably because my desktop pc went out with a bang last night, waking me up. It's probably the accumulated dust that killed it. You'd need all terminals and wires with potential isolated from air, no?

Conformal coatings are your friend.

That desktop, had it been coated, would probably still be working, assuming the dust did not trigger thermal trouble.

Yes. I've used Fine-L-Kote, which will keep moisture out. You mask the connectors and spray. It's transparent, but glows in UV so you can examine it for missed areas.

That's a thin coating. Automotive tends to dip in a heavier resin-type coating. At the other extreme, there are ultra-thin coatings used on some mobile devices.

Temperature differences cause materials to crack, which is the main failure cause.

It's amazingly hard to design electronics to survive thousands of cycles of 100C thermal cycles.

We used to fill the electronics in the case with "potty" (resin) up to the top, even milspec and automotive grade. They get warmer but way more gradual, don't move, and if you can keep the heat within the normal range the thermal stress gets less by avoiding sudden temperature changes.

Though the main failure mode was due to EMI as coil and spark plugs generate all kinds of crap.

A loud "bang" is probably from main supply capacitors. Dust matters but unless it is very conductive it won't affect low voltage circuits very much.

The dust will become conductive if the humidity is high enough.

I saw a video card short out that way.

I used to work on MyFord Touch at Microsoft and this was a constant discussion. "Why do we have such terrible touchscreens, when Tesla has such great ones?"

I think Tesla made the right decision because while it's certainly costing them a lot of money to deal with, the screens in most cars (especially back then) were so bad that it probably would have been worse for their brand.

The swing of the article "Look we told you so" really rubs me the wrong way. But it seems to represent the view of a large part of the Automotive industry. Instead of driving innovation forward, they shy away of the problems that introducing such innovation could have. Instead it seems the industry relies on shaming innovators for the issues of first generation future tech. This reminds me a lot of Steve Ballmer mocking the first iPhone: https://youtu.be/eywi0h_Y5_U

The most likely outcome is that they will figure it out, and much earlier than any of their competitors.

Tesla made a bold trade off and it was a clear win - until they stopped replacing the failing units.

But now the "good will" repairs are over, the smug attitude of the article is more or less deserved.

Buying off the shelf parts is not innovation. Especially when they are not suited to purpose and you ignore the vendor's own reliability figures.

I agree, but I bet we begin seeing other car companies using large displays and suddenly display manufacturers will start selling properly-designed, large displays.

Well, just to be fair, that's something that would have happened with or without Tesla. You saw those prototype screens at auto shows like Detroit years ago. Crucially, the prototypes were all automotive grade.

In this case, Tesla simply wanted to be ahead of the curve. Worked for a while, then the known failure rate of the parts caught up.

Whether or not it was worth it depends on the strategic intent and whether or not that bet paid off. We'd really need more information to make that call. And Tesla is not going to give anyone on this thread access to the strategic and financial information necessary.

Not that I've put much thought into it and not that it really matters in the context of the conversation, but if I was a manufacturer building a concept car I wouldn't bother using automotive grade components. It's not like they're built to drive any kind of serious mileage (if at all).

Most cars STILL have garbage grade(usability wise) ugly looking touchscreen interfaces, i think you over estimate tesla's competition

Yes, but this is the point - they stick to ugly looking touchscreens that are guaranteed to work. They could take screens from some tablet for few bucks, but they know that when they sell 100000 of cars and 20% would fail within two years it would cost them a lot to fix within warranty. If they start to fail after warranty, it would be huge impact on their good will and resale value on those cars would be damaged.

The companies displaying display screens at any given automotive show, would not be Tesla competitors. They would be the display parts manufacturers. The point was that display parts guys have been trying to up sell auto makers for years. So the larger screens would have, and did, exist in any case. It's just that no one was buying. Too expensive.

But yeah, with or without Tesla, obviously the screens would have existed.


Do you really think people are using alt accounts (a pain to get enough karma to allow downvoting on here) or could it just be they disagree with you making claims that aren't in the article?

It doesn't say anything about Musk's rationale.

Even aside from making unsubstantiated claims, the "Did you RTFA?" line would be enough for a downvote from me.

Ok I can't argue that. It can be warranted when someone doesn't do the reading, however.

Reading between the lines, I think some of the owners who have the problem are really rubbed the wrong way by Tesla's decision to stop replacing broken units.

> The most likely outcome is that they will figure it out, and much earlier than any of their competitors.

Disagree. The most likely outcome is that many folks who paid a lot of money for a car end up with a car with a screen that's flawed in some way. (I own an S that has the yellow box.)

It is also possible Tesla "figures it out" earlier than their competitors; but that's less likely as the former is now a certainty.

I would prefer innovation to be driven by durability and usability standards, rather than huge, bright, addictive LCD touchscreens.

SpaceX has had similar issues with using industrial grade parts in situations where their competitors typically use aerospace grade ones [1]. Although in their case the failures are a bit more visually spectacular than some yellow stripes [2]

[1]: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/public_...

[2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuNymhcTtSQ&t=3m

They did a whole batch of testing and a bunch of those struts failed at similarly abysmal fractions of rated load. Is that really "industrial grade"?

I mean, that was part of NASA's investigation conclusions. The design error wasn't using an industrially rated part, it was using it without proper screening, testing, and failure to follow manufacturer recommended safety margin.

One of the purposes of using the "right rated" parts is that you get to off-load some of the testing and screening that you might otherwise wish to do to a component vendor (who is better equipped to absorb the price of testing, and because they have tighter integration with manufacturing, a better ability to achieve specifications).

Like I totally get the idea of using lower cost components. But sometimes they are actually the solution. And sometimes finding the problem is incredibly expensive, if not in $$$, then at least in PR.

Americans love to shit on gold plating, but they also love to shit on greedy corporations minimizing the bottom line.

No, that's "a bad batch."

The issue here (as a sibling post points out) is QA.

And "industrial grade" includes parts where the manufacturing is that unreliable and nobody has tested them either?

The QA on aerospace grade material is much more severe as are the manufacturing standards. As a result the spread in critical characteristics between batches is much smaller, thus reducing the risk of a batch bad enough to fail in the normal use case. But yes, there are no guarantees, even aerospace grade stuff will fail. Testing isn't perfect, it simply reduces the risk.

As evidenced by that explosion, yes.

I don't see how the explosion helps distinguish between "industrial grade" and "below industrial grade"?

The distinction is between aerospace grade and industrial grade. Aerospace grade is definitely not "below industrial grade". Aerospace grade parts will be subjected to far more rigorous testing.

The problem SpaceX had was using industrial grade parts when they should have used aerospace grade parts.

The post I was replying to was making a distinction between aerospace grade and industrial grade.

I was looking at the details of the problem, and suggesting that those parts were neither aerospace grade nor industrial grade, but something lower still.

Non-rigorous testing is a reasonable thing for "industrial grade". I am not convinced that being far under half of the rated strength is a reasonable thing for "industrial grade".

The manufacturer suggested a load factor of 4x. Most industries probably don't subject their hunks of stainless steel to temperatures of -300°F. Cast parts also have a tendency to be more brittle when exposed to certain types of forces.

Suggested load factor shouldn't mean anything. There is a spec, and the parts are supposed to meet the spec. And most of the struts did. It wasn't a case of blatant misuse. Something went wrong with a subset of them.

The load factor is part of the spec, usually (I didn't check the specs). Maybe blatant misuse is a little bit strong, but one could get that SpaceX took slightly higher risks than traditional companies.

I have one of these yellow screens on my Model S. Tesla told me twice over the past 3 months they would be replacing it under warranty very soon. I'm disappointed to hear they're walking this back.

I also have a Model S with this occurring on my v2 MCU. I was told by a service tech they were collecting VINs, and would have a fix available this year. I opted out of arbitration when I took delivery of the vehicle, so I intend to sue in small claims court to have it replaced if Tesla does not perform the repair as a warranty claim. Waiting for a fix I'm fine with. Being stuck with it in a $100k car that is less than a year old I am not.

Could you please share tips on how you opted out of arbitration? I’m waiting for my M3 to be delivered, and would like to understand the pros and cons. I’m in CA, US if that matters.


I paid the $6 and sent mine USPS certified return receipt just to be sure. I recommend you do the same.

IIRC you have 30 days after the vehicle's delivery to send Tesla a letter saying you want to opt out (include your vehicle's VIN, and it probably doesn't hurt to use a certified letter).

Honest question: I'm surprised at such a hard stance against what I perceive to be an "early adopter" product. Did you not feel that buying a Tesla was a gamble?

Being an early adopter generally means paying a premium price without a lot of confidence that the product will be as useful as it looks, or that any promised ecosystems will appear.

People who bought an iPhone shortly after launch paid $600 with no idea that the app store would appear and become what it did. For all anyone knew, the iPhone would go the way of the Newton or the Zune. Two years later, the same phone was retailing for $200 with a proven track record and an exploding ecosystem of apps.

What being an early adopter doesn't mean is that the item may not be fit for purpose. If early iPhones had never taken off, and the product line was cancelled, that's your bad luck; you took a gamble when you bought it. If the screens had just not been rated for mobile use and had leaked LCD fluid into people's pockets, that's not part of the gamble.

Tesla's appeal to early adopters, but that's not an excuse for product defects.

The Tesla Model S has been on the market since 2012, and the specification/design of the screen has not changed in that time. I don't think buying a 7-year-old product, that has been through 7 years of refinements and improvements, makes you an early adopter!

Further more, it seems to be relatively new screens that suffer from the yellowing problem. It doesn't seem to be a common issue in Teslas built before 2016 or so.

> People who bought an iPhone shortly after launch paid $600

I remember paying $300 at launch I think...that was the AT&T locked one but back then it was easy to unlock.

The $600 ones weren't available until much much later when they started selling off contract unlocked phones directly.

The 4GB iPhone 1 was $499, with contract. The 8GB iPhone 1 was $599, with contact. A few months after launch they lowered the price by $200 and gave store credit to the people that paid the higher price.

It was £99 iirc in the UK but you had to get it activated in-store for a seriously pricy contract. Until somebody worked out how to jailbreak it, at which point it was the bargain of the year.

I think that's when I bought it, which still felt like shortly after launch even though I wasn't in line on day one.

I only started paying more for iphones later (off contract, unlocked, from China, etc...).

I bought mine in october 2007 for $300 with the unlockable AT&T sim card.

My understanding is the top-end model was $600 at launch. The price was cut by $200 to $400 two months after launch; after a backlash Apple compensated early purchasers with $100 of store credit. Two years later, an iPhone with comparable specs to the $600 launch model was $200.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/07/technology/07apple.html

I wasn’t living in the states, and just bought one on a trip back.

Tesla model S owners are no longer early adopters, that car is 7 years old. After that amount of time you’d expect these kinds of issues to have been solved.

Gambling $800 on an "early adopter" tech gadget is very different than spending $60,000+ on a car.

I would say if you bought a Tesla roadster you were an early adopter.

Mine was replaced under warranty last week (after waiting several months) - 2017 Model S, AP 2.0.

If they've committed to replacing the screens you can hold them to that, no?

Apparently these Teslas log to the eMMC so much that after a few years the part wears out. The screen goes black and the car falls back into limp mode.


I saw that as well and I find that scarry. Something so basic that should never happen. I wonder what else was ignored or mismanaged and might kill someone one day.

>I wonder what else was ignored or mismanaged and might kill someone one day.


This WILL kill someone. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when, and it's intentional.

Maybe the people responsible for that decision will see the inside of a jail cell, or maybe they won't- but the fact of the matter is that the presence of this "feature" is negligence at best, much like this case where bricking your car when something unrelated to its core functionality dies.

as someone who had to drive a relative to a hospital during a heart attack and just about the worst travel conditions possible, the idea of an otherwise healthy car preventing that drive during a panick due to a flaw unrelated to the powertrain and core driving functions is extremely worrying.

These are 'sports-car' problems. If I was shopping for a vehicle to fill the role as my primary transportation these flaws would exclude Tesla from my checklist, and I have a hard time believing that i'm the only one.

A 500 dollar Geo Metro from the mid 90s will get me to the hospital when I need it to. It'll get me away from an evacuation area. It'll drive me away from the forest fire. A Tesla is more glamorous, but when dealing with transportation being a means to someones survival i'm gonna stick to KISS -- and I wish that Tesla had the same idea in mind with regards to many things about their cars.

(keep the ambulance/911 comments to yourself. It was N/A in the situation I found myself in.)

I researched Tesla’s “bricking” and not starting after seeing that image on reddit. Turns out it can’t happen while driving and means something failed mid upgrade while the car isn’t in use.

Maybe I’m wrong, but the Telsa forums were absolutely livid when a poster used the word brick. His car was in state where it couldn’t start or upgrade again.

>Turns out it can’t happen while driving and means something failed mid upgrade while the car isn’t in use.

Are the upgrades user initiated? I've had (or seen) enough productions and live events degraded or interrupted by the windows autoupdater to be terrified of the idea of "isn't in use" updates.

From my limited Telsa knowledge they were user initiated and your able to decline them. Meaning, you wouldn’t be stuck at the store if you come outside and all of the sudden your car has to update.

Perhaps some updates need to be done overnight?

> Maybe the people responsible for that decision will see the inside of a jail cell

Sadly I highly doubt that and if someone goes to jail it will be some poor engineer that was forced the implement it that way.

Just look at what happened to Uber after they actually killed someone with their self-driving car because of their disregard for safety from the top in order to save time and money.

Next up, Boeing.

Especially the Boeing case shocks me. Uber is a start-up, so their culture is different. Boeing on the other hand, well they are old school aerospace and violated their own hard learned lessons here.

>Boeing on the other hand, well they are old school aerospace and violated their own hard learned lessons here.

Boeing has a pretty terrible history of safety violations, especially when money is involved. They also have a long history of trying to cover their involvement until the last possible second.

I can think of a few incidents, but one of the really atrocious incidents was Boeings' response with regards to Lauda Air Flight 004.[0]

If Niki Lauda hadn't been so assertive about Boeing making public demonstrations of the maneuver in question they would have never admitted fault. It wasn't until sufficient celebrity pressure was applied to them that they admitted to flaws that had been well known and swept under the rug to save cash.

Now, cue the folks that compare the number of Boeing planes in the air with the number that have fallen out of the sky.

This number is irrelevant when we're talking about a company with a history of 1) : ignoring problems, 2) : refusing fault for their own responsibilities, 3) : covering up flaws that are costly to repair , and finally 4): modifying or cleaning debris fields of downed planes before national inspectors, possibly with intent to reduce corporate blame.[1]

[0] : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauda_Air_Flight_004 wiki article mentioning Boeings' role in post-incident investigation, delay of public information, and fault refusal until Lauda asked for a demonstration

[1] : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E42NN1rU93o an interview with Niki Lauda where he mentions the behavior of the Boeing ground crew with regards to the debris field at the site of the Thailand LaudaAir Flight 004 reverse-thrust incident.

Same cut throat cost cutting MBAs are being hired in both companies tho

It is said because it is true. Same goes for all other companies like Airbus, too.

Makes me think of Macs/iPhones failing to boot if the device date is set to 1970...

It's not surprising they had problems with a large screen. Large multilayered sandwiches of different materials have thermal expansion problems. Not everything will expand at the same rate, which means internal stresses as temperature cycles. Large size means the difference in length across the longest dimension will be much larger than for a small device. This breaks bonds and seals.

Solar panels have the same problem, and they have "expansion joints" to deal with it.[1] Hard to do that for one seamless screen.

[1] https://www.pveducation.org/pvcdrom/modules-and-arrays/therm...

I've long wished for a "slot your iPad in here" solution for this sort of thing. Sure it might not stand up to automotive grade punishment, but you can remove it when leaving the car in the sun and if it breaks it is easy to replace and much cheaper than custom parts (thanks to Apple's economies of scale).

I've worked on "Bring Your Own Device" concepts together with Honda.[1] There are plenty of wins for consumers in this type of setup.

Automakers have taken notice that people are using their phones for an increasing share of infotainment functions.

The tough, time-consuming parts are working through the supply chain to build out the connectivity and "happy coexistence" of phone and car. Also, I've yet to find a UX which blends physical, voice, and touchscreen controls while accounting for their strengths, weaknesses, and learnability. Tesla included.

1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnMwI6SGAOg

Cool! That's pretty much exactly what I'm imagining, except tablet sized instead of phone sized.

Agreed. I'm a big fan of the cradle/clamp thing on the VW e-up- it's supposed to be a "cost saving" feature, but I think it actually works better than most centrally mounted built-in systems.

My girlfriend has a VW Up! and I think the cradle idea is brilliant. It’s not as good as the new Polo setup, but changing music/sat nav is so much better on an iPhone than it would be on a cheap integrated system.

The only car I've seen it in is VW Up. Too small for my needs.

I wonder if iPads could hold up to all that vibration.

To be fair, they technically already do when you take it with yours with you somewhere.

As long as the mounting plate is sufficiently isolated from the rest of the car's movement, they shouldn't need to suffer any vibration in excess of what they'd endure under normal use and transport conditions.

Of course, it's still a better situation for consumers: if the iPad does die, you can replace it that same day with an off the shelf part (or you plug your phone in for that day instead), it's trivially expensive compared to what head units of similar type cost (it's actually even cheaper if you can use a bargain-basement 50-dollar Android tablet instead of an iPad), and it's something that you can upgrade as you get the money to do so.

Plus, it also heavily discourages manufacturers from pulling a Tesla and refusing to start your car before you update the infotainment software, which is also a shockingly anti-consumer trend.

Cars are a tough environment for electronics. Asides from the other examples mentioned in the article, my Ford's monochrome non-touch LCD turns into an illegibly garbled mess in the cold (below -20°C) until the car warms up.

I've seen this same effect a lot when talking about Teslas. Any failure on their part is instantly chalked up to alleged poor practices, laziness, and general lack of care or professionalism, whereas an identical failure on the part of an established manufacturer is shrugged off as "oh well, sometimes parts fail."

(Take the issue with fires, for instance - Teslas catch fire far less frequently than conventional cars, but every time it happens it's global front-page news.)

Except that Tesla in this case didn't even attempt to get parts rated for adverse conditions to cut costs so it's really not the same thing.

And what's their resulting failure rate compared to what it would have been if they'd used existing auto-rated parts?

I see a lot of "they should have done X and they didn't so they're wrong" but not a lot of "they should have done X but they did Y and Y worked worse than X by these measures".

> Any failure on their part is instantly chalked up to alleged poor practices

If this article is accurate (let's assume it is, those quotes from Musk will get the lawyers coming so fast if they were false), then it just proved that this actually is the case! Their arrogance that "pah, who needs automotive grade?" has now come back to bite them in the ass...

True. But another Tesla burst into flames in Hong Kong: https://qz.com/1618627/a-parked-tesla-model-s-burst-into-fla...

Parked gas cars don't usually burst into flames.

> Parked gas cars don't usually burst into flames.

Usually not, no. But every now and then, they do, just like electric cars. It's hard to say which type of vehicle burns down more often, the sample size is small and there are so many more petrol powered cars than electric powered cars.

Electric and petrol powertrains have different failure modes. An electric car can fail while being parked, which is less likely to happen on petrol cars (and if so, it's usually caused by an electrical failure in the car). However, petrol powered cars have a higher chance of bursting into flames while in operation due to the compination of high temperature components and pressurised fuel being close to each other.

A car (being petrol or electric) has a high density energy storage. Whenever that enegry can no longer be contained, bad things happen. Personally, I'd prefer my car burning down while being parked over bursting into flames when I'm driving it.

Google returns

2.4M results for:

Parked car burst into flames "mercedes" -tesla -bmw

1M for

Parked car burst into flames "tesla" -mercedes -bmw

0.5M for

Parked car burst into flames "bmw" -mercedes -tesla

Unscientific I know but surely an indication that at least some parked cars do burst into flames. Not usually I'll grant you, but a bit more frequently than one might think.

Toyota Avensis (around 2013 model) infotainment screens have a temperature dependent offset on all touches on the resistive touch screen. When its <10 C, the offset is larger than the screen size making it completely impossible to change audio sources or use navigation.

I'm suspicious of touchscreens ever since my phone deleted an icon from Android home screen (a drag and drop IIRC!). Charging the phone from a plug in an Indian train causes continous spurious touches all over.

The Tesla Model S we've had since 2015 hasn't had any problems with its screen, despite being driven in California. This article's conclusion was strange. Without that Touch Screen, none of what makes Tesla a Tesla would have been a problem since it would have been controlled with un-upgradeable knobs, switches and buttons.

I agree with the comments here that Tesla should make it right for the customers though.

Tesla is not the only car with a touchscreen.

OTOH physical knobs and switches are much easier to operate without looking at them. Which is particularly important in a car.

Do you park it in a garage or out in the sun?

Great article. These appear to be the exact kind of engineering lessons you would expect a new company like Tesla to learn the hard way. And it explains why incumbent car manufacturers might seem less innovative on the surface.

Tesla may not be the greatest company ever, but it's certainly not a fraud. I think we should move on from that point if view. The I immense pressure from shorters and fossil fuel lobby should have destroyed Tesla by now. But here they are, surviving. If Tesla were to go bankrupt this year, I would still call it a successful company.

The problem is that there's a massive gulf between fraud and successful company. If Ford put Tesla's display in their latest vehicle people would be going nuts about the fact Ford shipped such an unreliable item. Tesla has essentially made the calculation that they can ship a sub-standard product and cut corners. This is exactly the same attitude the early years of Uber had. They'll certainly get away with cutting these corners in the short term, but in the long term it's dishonest and it's not a sustainable way of doing business.

>Tesla has essentially made the calculation that they can ship a sub-standard product and cut corners

Do you know that almost all (if not all) other auto-manufacturers made the calculation that they better lie to their customers about the emissions coming out of their cars?

Who's really cutting more corners?

Read to the final paragraph:

> In fairness, other automakers have had issues with touchscreens as well. Just last year, Ford settled a class action lawsuit over a host of problems with its MyFordTouch systems and had previously extended warranty coverage for its SYNC systems. Cadillac had to recently revamp its CUE touchscreen system after numerous issues including "the dreaded spiderweb cracks." But [like, it's totally different for Tesla for reasons not having anything to do with screens or reliability][1]"

Basically, screens suck. Everyone's screens break. Apple and Samsung have shipped junk screens too. But Tesla's bad screens are an existential crisis. The auto industry hates them so much...

[1] Paraphrased.

>Basically, screens suck. Everyone's screens break. Apple and Samsung have shipped junk screens too. But Tesla's bad screens are an existential crisis.

All screens suck but only one manufacturer put their entire control panel in the screen... so yeah...

Right, so the whole "...shows why automotive grade matters" is a complete fabrication. All screens suck. The article spends a ton of words on why the particular panel Tesla picked was bad just to take it all back and pull a switcheroo to a design critique instead. In the last paragraph!

That's not honest journalism.

What you're saying is several out of hundreds of different automotive grade screens had problems too. And one out of one non-automotive grade screen (Tesla's) also had problems. Not a large enough sample size, but things look statistically better for the automotive grade ones.

It's disingenuous to take "X has big problems, Y have some problems" and just whitewash it with "Basically the whole alphabet sucks". No, screens are hard and some do a better job than others.

Objectively, a class action settlement and a recall are both clearly worse results for a manufacturer than anything alleged in the article. Who's being disingenuous?

The only reason why Tesla hasn't been hit by a lawsuit over this is because they were replacing these units for free.

Now that they no longer do, what do you expect to happen?

If you google the authors name "Edward Niedermeyer", you can find out that he has a history of bad-mouthing Tesla in a long series of blog posts. So I would take any allegations made by him with extreme care.

He bad-mouths everyone. He's an analyst, not a cheerleader.

Which means, that his publications shouldn't be mistaken for journalism.

> ...despite the fact that it held the temperature at +40C which is about the temperature where a child's organs will start shutting down...

I've been in hotter places than that as a child and my organs are still functioning. Not that convincing a tale, got to be honest.

That is the internal body temperature at which the organs will start shutting down, but external (e.g. cabin) temperature can obviously go higher without issues. Kind of disingenuous from the author.

It's a reference to fever temperatures. Internal body temp != ambient air temp.

So Tesla is selling:

- electric vehicles

- long range

- self driving

- big screens

I really wish they or somebody else focus on just the first two parts - long range electric cars. No need for the AI or other fancy stuff.

Agreed. Don't try to tackle every problem at once; tackle the most important ones first, do the nice-to-haves later.

Do you think that by not giving a large touch-panel display, the car with become more efficient?

It will definitely have one less problem as the article points out.

I also have a small touch infotainment screen in my car. Works great for calls, music and navigation - that is all what I need it to do. I have not had a single problem with it for about 4 years.

I called Tesla service in December because of both displays delaminating. They said they’d call me back, which of course they never did. This explains it, I guess.

A car with any kind of touchscreen for anything but non-essential functions is a huge red flag for me. Because of the mandate for backup cameras, and the dash space that the display for those takes up, I think I'm going to have to stick to pre-2018 model years for as long as they let me.

I think it is incredibly unsafe that things like heat and radio controls have been shifted to non-tactile touch inputs, rather than analog buttons and knobs. But I am an old fogey that keeps at least one hand on the wheel and my eyes on the road.

> Because of the mandate for backup cameras, and the dash space that the display for those takes up, I think I'm going to have to stick to pre-2018 model years for as long as they let me.

At least Toyota Avalons do it in a smart way: the display for the back-up camera is embedded in the rear-view mirror. You can only see it when you are backing up.

Agreed - I have Raynaud syndrome, which is fortunately entirely manageable by keeping my core temp up, and wearing warm mittens when it's cold: https://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en_CA/ski-gloves/super...

Any control in my car that I can't operate while wearing those mitts is essentially useless to me.

That's what steering wheel controls are for.

Maybe. Depends on how modal they are.

The primary issue with touch is the difficulty many people have using it by feel, and or "muscle memory" alone. Typically, one needs to identify the UX element desired, then touch, and then often verify the thing happened or select after that.

Where it is modal, another whole layer of that interaction is needed, and or driver needs to retain more state info. "Which screen is it on, and is it currently available for me to use?"

Steering wheel controls can be better, but many of those do toggle through various modes and the driver needs to glance at a small screen in the dash cluster.

Doing that is generally superior to a touch only UX though.

On many cars, low importance functions are clumped into these kinds of UX. Higher order things get their own control.

I drive a lot of different cars. New, old, and Tesla.

I thought the Tesla was spiffy, but did not think much of the big touch panel for reasons I have given here.

My very favorite drives are on cars with great controls, and all of it working with dim interior lighting. Just enough to see what needs to be seen, the rest easily operated in a tactile way, night vision intact.

This is not to say touch is not useful in cars.

I think it can be and is.

This is to say touch has a very long way to go before it begins to seriously challenge well designed buttons, levers and switches.

The problem with this article and many others on similar subjects is that there isn't any real information about the prevalence of the problems that they describe. Without that it's pretty much just angry bluster whether they are describing problems in a Tesla or a Mercedes.

Is it one screen in a million that fails or one in ten? There is no way of telling from the article.

As Tesla has only manufactured 150-200K Model S's to date and the article cites multiple owners, you can definitively say the observed failures are not one in a million.

What's the argument against just relying on "cabin overheat protection" to keep the climate in spec? Seems like that would solve a lot of their supply chain limitations at once with relatively minimal battery drain - though it does seem wasteful to spend energy keeping electronics comfy in the sun.

I would expect to be able to leave my car in a parking lot for a week or two (unplugged) and still be able to drive away when I return. I feel like with overheat protection the battery would be dead by the time I got back.

Overheat protection deactivates when the battery pack reaches 20% state of charge. EVs are a bit of a different model; whenever parking for long periods, I endeavor to find a lot that lets me plug in, even if it's 120V 15A (which is enough to keep the cabin cool and the battery somewhat conditioned, although not enough to charge if both of the previously mentioned activities are occurring). Haven't had an airport or long term parking lot yet I could not find an approved outlet or EV charger for my use, but YMMV.

@leggomylibro: To reply to your deleted comment, you asked if the vehicle needed 1800W to keep itself conditioned but not maintain state of charge. It's closer to 1440W, as a 15A 120V circuit is derated to 12A (80%) for continuous duty cycle. Coolant pumps can be power hungry!

@akozak: I believe it is Tesla specific. I am unaware of the feature being present on other EVs.

I'm guessing that's Tesla specific? My Bolt doesn't have (afaik) an automatic cabin conditioning feature so I've never thought about it. Presumably Chevy built it with parts on spec to handle heat.

Can you leave an EV on a public charger for weeks? I thought you needed to give it up for the next person after a few hours.

This is truly the argument for rooftop solar panels.

Not because they'd replenish a meaningful amount of range per day, but because they'd provide better-than-ICE unpluggability for stuff like long-term parking, cabin ventilation, battery maintenance, telematics modem sleep current, etc.

That, and 'overheat protection' apparently doesn't work...

I have a different issue with the "cabin overheat protection": claiming that it is to "protect dogs and children" when, even if working as intended, it could allow a car to reach a temperature dangerous to children, is highly irresponsible -- even if Tesla also said that you should constantly monitor the temperature to ensure that it is safe. There's no justification for this sort of dissembling.

From the article:

>Tesla appeared to mostly fix this problem with its "cabin overheat protection" feature (which it sold as being to protect dogs and children, despite the fact that it held the temperature at +40C which is about the temperature where a child's organs will start shutting down)

But as the linked explanation says, +40C is the internal temperature which becomes dangerous. This is not the same as the dangerous air temperature. Humans both produce heat by metabolism, and remove heat by sweating. Danger is a function of temperature, humidity, duration of exposure, hydration, clothing, general health, etc. and although I don't know exactly what is safe for children, I point out that a great many people live in climates where air temperature routinely exceeds 40C for several hours at a time.

Cabin Overheat Protection is separate to Dog Mode.

If you want to express outrage about abdication of responsibility at least be talking about the relevant feature.

Cabin overheat protection is there to protect things left in the car like electronics, and theoretically requires no user interaction.

Dog Mode allows the user to dial up the desired temperature and then walk away. This is the actual dangerous feature, because the belief is that the air conditioner will keep the temperature at the level you want it. This despite a history of at least one police dog dying every month in the USA due to equipment failures, and theirs dog cars have specially modified environmental controls to maintain and monitor the temperature, including opening windows as a last ditch temperature control effort. Even those systems fail sometimes.

And here is Tesla setting people up for failure using a single air conditioner that is monitored remotely using an internet connection that is flakier than filo pastry.

The temperature is tracked locally, I assume you mean if the AC fails it notifies you remotely?

It is a good question if, while in dog mode, if the car detects the temperature exceeds the set point, will it lower the windows or try to notify the owner?

Leaving your dog in the car for an extended amount of time is not a good idea, and in many places is illegal. And yet, sometimes the safest place for your dog is in the car.

Personally I haven’t used it yet, but I like the option of a big display showing the interior temperature of my dog is in the car without me for a few minutes.

Yes, monitored remotely through the app on your phone, which may or may not reflect the actual environment in the car at that moment.

FWIW is typical failure mode for an air conditioner is for the condenser to fail, so the conditioner ends up over-heating air that hasn’t been cooled by the condenser yet, resulting in the interior temperature hitting 60C in minutes, so eg a police dog (typically a large-ish dog like German shepherds) will be dead or dying when you come out to check on it fifteen minutes later.

The systems used in police dog vehicles include redundant components, temperature monitoring and emergency actions like opening windows to allow cool air to flow. Police around the USA still lose about one dog a month with those specialist systems in place.

It’s only a matter of time until someone posts on the Tesla reddit that the car killed their dog and the fans will dogpile on the poster telling them it’s their fault for leaving the dog in the car in the first place.

It’s an interesting analog to AutoPilot.

People will leave their dogs in cars on occasion. I believe there are plenty of times you have to do that actually as a matter of safety, where there isn’t another option or a second person to stay with the dog in the car.

But a car isn’t perfectly safe for dogs, and perhaps hundreds of dogs die each year in hot cars. (Apparently a million dogs are killed in collisions each year, but I guess that’s besides the point)

So as a feature to keep dogs comfortable and safe, it’s a feature that is likely to protect dogs’ lives on hot days.

Yet, as you say, and I agree, it’s entirely possible a hardware or software failure will result in a dog’s death.

So they are protecting dogs lives, but in doing with a general purpose automotive AC could also risk a dog’s life in the event the system fails. In addition the existence of the feature may also contribute to a complacency around leaving dogs in cars that otherwise could have safely remained with the owner.

Does that mean it’s wrong to ship the feature? FSD, in a similar sense, has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives a year. It will also undoubtably cost some number of lives a year as well.

If we are unable to tolerate catastrophic failure of a system, you necessarily lose all the benefits of the system. To me it seems morally wrong not to ship the system which will save orders of magnitudes more lives than it might cost. That’s true whether we’re discussing dogs or humans.

It’s funny it’s hard to draw a precise line, but I’m sure for example the FDA has dealt with this exact calculation. No medicine is without risk, and to win approval is not to show a medicine is risk free. Their is some threshold where the risk is worth the net benefit.

In the case of an AC system in an automobile, it is already a mission critical system which is highly reliable by the way. When I had a cooling fan die on my last car a couple years ago I was unable to use the AC in my car on a 100°F day. It was amazing how hot the car got, and how quickly. If I was on a remote highway it would have been life threatening, to go from 72°F climate control to 100°F+ with no water on hand.

> so the conditioner ends up over-heating air that hasn’t been cooled by the condenser yet

Does that happen when you have no engine?

Resistive heaters and heat pumps.

Not only does it seem to be very unethical, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a wrongful death lawsuit eventually.

That's a hidden price (in charging and range) that you have to pay because Tesla did not use proper screens. And it only works when the charge is >20%, so you have to plan ahead if you want to leave the car in the sun at around that charge.

It's probably sold as a feature "you'll find your car comfy when you go back", or even "your children will be fine even if you're a horrible parent" and doesn't say anywhere "disabling this feature may cause the screen we provided to melt in the sun, and we don't provide a replacement, as maybe next we'll have a way to fix it". And I don't think the limitation is supply chain, it's just that they want to keep the costs low for the technical debt.

This person has taken the wrong lesson from the story. The actual moral of this story is that the auto industry is too conservative and being a little less conservative allows you to build one of the best cars in the world.

So a few touchscreens have yellow lines. The Tesla touchscreen is still clearly better than any other car's touchscreen and if they'd done it this guy's way they wouldn't have been able to ship it at all because the part simply wasn't available then.

Sorry, but if you're going to design a car that replaces not just the infotainment system, not just the climate controls, but the entire instrument console with a touchscreen, then it would seem to me one of the places you absolutely do not want to cut corners on is...the touchscreen.

"One of the best cars in the world" is obviously subjective, and there are some ways in which Tesla is absolutely leading. But all of the innovation on display in Teslas don't earn them a free pass on build quality issues.

Is it fair to say they “cut corners”? They bought the best screen available at the time at size they wanted, and then tested it in-house. It’s not like the screen has terrible specs, but it is not rated to operate at 130°C.

So they tried adding software to keep the cabin below 50°C even when the car is parked, but either it doesn’t work all the time or people turn the feature off, of someone is parked in the sun long enough to run the battery below 20%.

The trade off was a higher rate of warranty repairs in order to build the car they wanted to build.

I think in the case of the Model 3, partially how they solved it is through special glass they used above the front seats. I’ve been wondering why the glass is so unique above the front seats but not the same tint for the rest of the roof glass. It’s very interesting — water droplets on the glass above the front seats look almost blood red. Now I’m guessing it’s filtering to block IR or other solar gain which might otherwise burn out the screen.


According to the article the screen has good specs -- but it doesn't quite meet even the lowest-quality rating for automotive screens, and that sure seems like it's the proximate cause for the thermal failures they're experiencing.

I'm not sure whether it's fair to say they "cut corners," but I'm not sure it's not fair. The other alternatives could have been finding a supplier willing to work with them on an oversized screen that met at least Automotive Grade 4 standards, or being willing to redesign the instrument panel to take a smaller screen. (Or two smaller screens.)

> The trade off was a higher rate of warranty repairs in order to build the car they wanted to build.

Warranty repairs? Tesla has described these as a small number of "goodwill repairs" and summarily begun denying them even to new car owners as "cosmetic, won't fix".

I have an iPhone 6 which once had a third-party screen installed to replace a cracked one.

The replacement screen looked great at first - indistinguishable from the original one.

But over time it has developed exactly the same issue: a yellow band/border/ring around the outside of the screen. I wonder if this is a wider issue within the LCD industry, rather than just being specific to Tesla.

Yes, it's an issue with oxygen and moisture sealing the edge of the screen.

The yellowing will happen to all screens eventually, just heat speeds it up a lot.

I hope that Tesla's attitude to using robust engineering principles does not end up causing large amount of injuries or deaths. It is not just in the cars that they produce, it is also the way their factories are run as well.

Can somebody point to a definition of the word "Saga" that isn't ... related to vikings? I see it more and more and it's confusing me.

What’s confusing? Sagas were long, epic stories and now we use the term colloquially (sometimes hyperbolically) to describe complex events that occur over a long period of time.

I think traditional car manufacturers just don't advance the state of the art in screens and other in other in-car electronics at a pace fast enough. They are content with shitty 7 inch screens with faded colors, since their supplier told them this is the best that can be done. You need someone like tesla to force screen suppliers to catch up to the best screens, do the required testing and make the best screens capable of withstanding heat and shock. It's the same with the concept of an electric car and the concept of self driving.

Ah yes, forced modernization, and the users are the beta testers of all this.

Sorry to all the yellow screen owners who won't get them replaced, and RIP that dude that crashed into the concrete barrier.

Such a cheap rebuttal, and a misuse of numbers. Did you know pedestrians and motorbikes are included in that stats? "But the numbers!"...


Whatever the numbers it's managed to save, Tesla's buggy self-driving software has killed a few people for sure. How would you like that seal of approval on your product?

All i know is that now when i see a car without a massive touchscreen in it i end up thinking "really? in 2019? what should i pay 80 grand for a backwards POS?"

now i know why these screens aren't more prevalent but still...tesla's dashboard looks superslick

I think this is fine if the failure to success ratio is low for the parts. Especially given that the failure here refers to failing pixels and doesn't compromise safety.

Some quick math, if an industrial part costs $10, and an automotive part costs $20, then for ten cars you save $100. Assuming that 20% of all your cars are faulty, that's a $80 savings translation. With the remaining money, you could spend $40 on R&D for a screen at the same price point with higher reliability and still come out on top. However, at some point, you will reach a time where the number of replacements that don't justify the design. For a bootstrapped company, I don't think it's a bad bet, but it is time critical to find an alternative before they start losing money.

While this might be true, you then possibly have a very noisy 20% previous customer base who may or may not buy your car again, and if noisy enough might convince others your designs are shoddy and are not worth the premium price tag you're trying to sell them for. Brands are not worth nothing.

Agreed, that this may not be a win for brand loyalty.

This may have been a reasonable argument if they considered it to fall under warranty, and replace it for free when it fails.

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