2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: New Touchscreen Bug Surfaces

March 8, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Really? I thought we were done with this. I'm looking at the new replacement touchscreen on our 2013 Tesla Model S and I can hardly believe my eyes.

Oh, it works. It hasn't burnt out (or whatever) again. But just look at the camera image.

Don't see it? Look closer. The image is misaligned, out of its designated window. And its new unauthorized position has it partially obscuring important virtual touchscreen buttons. Plus it looks gross.

Only the camera does this. If I turn it off and choose any other display screen it all works normally.

2013 Tesla Model S

A tiny virtual tab between the two displays is supposed to allow me to swap the top and bottom screens. I press it, but the misaligned camera won't play. It stays put, leaving the lower frame it's supposed to swap down into conspicuously empty. Meanwhile, the former lower screen shuffles up (and under) the persistent misaligned camera image.

I know what you're saying, "Try the reset procedure. Do the Ctrl-Alt-Del thingy."

Sure, I know about that. Press the two thumbwheels on the steering wheel simultaneously and hold them until the screen reboots, and when that's done do the same with the two upper steering spoke buttons to reboot the instrument panel screen.

Two things: First, I think the Tesla service center should see this and log the issue in their system, especially in light of this car's previous touchscreen history. Maybe it will help them find the root cause, or something. Who knows? Maybe the root cause behind the loss of screen number one is behind this, too. Or maybe it's unrelated. Both parties should know. We lose that opportunity if I reboot it myself and clear the symptoms in my driveway.

Second, I bristle at the idea of rebooting a car as a routine repair method. It irks me no end that we put up with (and consider normal) the utter and universal unreliability of PCs and software because we're so starstruck with the technology, and I do not want to open that door even a crack in the automotive world. If it seizes, I go to the dealer because I consider it a problem, reboot procedure or no.

2013 Tesla Model S

I pull into the driveway of the Tesla service center in Costa Mesa fifteen minutes after they opened. They're swamped, and the lifts behind the glass wall in the reception area are well and truly filled with Model S sedans. But exactly zero customers are in the waiting room. Curiously, my presence seems like a surprise.

"Do you have an appointment?" asks the representative.

"No," I reply. "The sign says Monday to Friday 9:00 to 5:00, Saturday and Sunday by appointment only. It's Tuesday." And it's only 9:15, I add to myself in my head.

It turns out this service center also does pre-delivery inspections on new cars headed to waiting buyers. Over three dozen new Tesla Model S sedans are parked in various places around the lot waiting their turn. They are bulging at the seams. Business looks good.

The appointment question this early on a weekday makes we wonder if they're really set up to take walk-ins. Is this an Apple store or an automobile service department?

2013 Tesla Model S

But there's more to it than that. They're struggling with an Internet outage and it has them off-balance. From where I stand the irony hangs heavy in the air.

What this means is they can't scan our car and analyze the problem. From this I can only surmise that Tesla service centers do not have the same kind of self-contained diagnostic equipment that traditional dealers have. Apparently the scans are sent off to the cloud where they are intercepted and read by mission control, or something.

Since no Internet equals no diagnostics, the representative goes ahead and does the reboot thing in the parking lot while I sit in the passenger seat. It takes all of a minute. It's the same procedure described above. I could have done it at home.

Back inside, she apologizes profusely and offers me some coffee as she writes the car's VIN and odometer reading on a paper ledger. She'll call another location (mission control, presumably) and have them go through the historical logs remotely.

But the reboot worked, and I was out of there no more than ten minutes after I arrived. The images are all back in their windows, the upper touchscreen buttons are fully visible with the camera running and the screens shuffle around as they were meant to.

I still don't know what led to this, and I have no idea if this bug will ever surface again. I can always try the reboot trick, but I consider that a band-aid, not a fix. The root cause in this case, if there is one, has not yet been analyzed, identified or addressed.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 1,076 miles

Comments

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    "It irks me no end that we put up with (and consider normal) the utter and universal unreliability of PCs and software because we're so starstruck with the technology..." Well said. The long, detail filled article is nice too.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    "It irks me no end that we put up with (and consider normal) the utter and universal unreliability of PCs and software because we're so starstruck with the technology..." Well said. The long, detail filled article is nice too.

  • vizcarmb vizcarmb Posts:

    Someone Call the Wahhh bulance!!!!!!!!!

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Hmmm...something tells me Tesla is going to like this long-term test no more than they did the NY Times review. I'm looking forward to see how the car is to live with once it's taken away from the coastal/temperate Supercharger network environment...like to the mountains, with cold, inclines, etc.

  • cobryson cobryson Posts:

    Certainly it looks like a bug that should be fixed...but I'd be very surprised if there's anything useful in the logs about it. Seems like it'd be fairly low-level/driver-related. It's certainly not hardware-related, so I really doubt it has anything to do with the touchscreen swap.

  • Buying a first year model of any car generally has its risks. Buying a first year model from a fairly new car company would have even more risks. Buying a first year model from a fairly new car company with very low production numbers that is loaded with a large amount of software makes you a beta tester. Imagine if windows had to be rolled out by a specific date to coincide with another product and the sales were in the below 7,000 a year range. That would be beyond buggy. Heck, imagine if they were only going to sell 6,500 iphones a year, you'd likely end up with one you couldn't hold normally and make a call at the same time being released to the public at some point :)

  • zhangrenhou zhangrenhou Posts:

    "She'll call another location (mission control, presumably) and have them go through the historical logs remotely." Then, what will she do? Will she call you back to have the screen fixed?

  • throwback throwback Posts:

    Is Tesla ready to provide the after service care that people who buy six figure cars expect? I'm not talking about the early adopters but the folks who are not tech geeks. I give the lady credit she handled the issue, and with relatively few customers they should be okay for now. Long term it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  • jederino jederino Posts:

    I am reminded of the Xbox360 reliability issues and fragile harddrives, etc. Those were sold in large numbers, so Tesla is not too shabby.

  • zhangrenhou zhangrenhou Posts:

    fordson1, I was unaware of the NY Times article, but it seems that CNN and a group of Tesla owners were able to make the same trip, with few or no surprises. The NY Times reporter struck me as having very little common sense (to put it nicely).

  • alex4515 alex4515 Posts:

    Personally, I would have tried rebooting first. If that fixed it, fine - hopefully for good. However, if it happened a few more times, I think that's when I would have taken it in.

  • sharpend sharpend Posts:

    When in doubt, restart. Duh. Just like with any computer.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    You pooh-poohers must have skipped several paragraphs. 1) This car had a previous touchscreen that burnt out completely, so any subsequent issue with the replacement requires more than a casual response. If you got a "check engine" light two days after the dealer replaced your car's oxygen sensors, you'd go straight back, right? 2) Any issue that I clear at home in my driveway will be an issue that Telsa never learns about. They might not know there is problem to fix, so it may well happen to me again.

  • exactly, actualsize, and as a 'beta tester' it is nice to report in on problems so they can look into it to improve the interface for everyone.

  • mensadoc mensadoc Posts:

    Dan, we've all grow up with certain preconceptions about how to deal with our gasoline car company's service assets because the problems are almost always hardware, never software. I realize that: 1. Whatever is wrong, I probably can't fix it myself. 2. Any time I want, I can pop into the dealership to ask questions - almost surely they won't be able to fix the problem on the spot, but they'll determine what level of repair is required and then schedule the appropriate amount of time for a future repair. On the other hand, there's not much hardware to go wrong in the Tesla drivetrain, and any issues are much more likely to be software. This allows a much more convenient approach: 1. I can call the Tesla 800 service line and report my problem/question at any time no matter where I am (without having to drive across town). 2. While I'm on the phone they can immediately access my car's computer to trouble-shoot the problem. 3. If there's something flakey with the screens, I can IM them a photo of it right then. 4. Once they've looked at the car's logs, they can either have me restart the computer or download a software patch to handle the problem on the spot. 4. In the (much) less likely case that a hardware fix will be required, they can immediately book my appointment at the Service Center. How cool is that! Personally, I find this approach to auto service much more streamlined, convenient, and logical than driving all they way across town to first chat in the service drive with Zeke the service writer at the gas auto dealer, then another day go back, leavw the car, and drive a loaner for a while before returning yet a third time to pick up my internal combustion car. That's THREE trips across town instead of NONE (or maybe just one). What's not to like about that? :-)

  • tokyorush tokyorush Posts:

    What a bummer. I know a lot of people have issues where they are doing the reset thing on a regular basis too. I agree with you, Dan, that they should get to the bottom of the issue even if the reset fixes it temporarily. I still think these gremlins will be worked out as they continue to update the software regularly, but, no doubt, we'll see more of them as more "apps" emerge for the car too. I wonder where people are in their acceptance of bugs in their car user interface vs. the convenience of having upgrades available without buying a new vehicle? I'm two weeks away from delivery of my MS, and fully expect some of these to continue to surface - and will handle them as you are with going to the service center for support. Jason

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    The last time I felt I could assume my ICE car problem was hardware, never software, was about 15 years ago. The last time I assumed that whatever was wrong, I probably couldn't fix it myself was about 40 years ago. The last time a car's drivetrain was the only likely source of mechanical trouble was probably 100 years ago. The one issue Edmunds has dealt with so far was performed at the service department and has been treated by Tesla as a hardware issue, and involved the replacement of an actual piece of hardware. Even if the issue is software, "software" doesn't mean "easy" and there is guarantee it can be handled remotely.

  • jvonbokel jvonbokel Posts:

    I've had this happen to me once. I took a screenshot (press and hold the lower right hand button on the steering wheel), and sent an e-mail to ownership@teslamotors.com alerting them to the problem, and then I rebooted the screen.

  • drcomputer drcomputer Posts:

    Dan, I would assume as an online editor you'd read other online forums (ie. www.teslamotorsclub.com) and take a look through the known issues threads. If so, you would already know about the backup camera bug and wouldn't have wasted time driving to the service center. I know drama makes interesting reporting, but this is old news.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    When Dan disappears I'd like to throw my hat in for consideration for the open position. I for one welcome our new Tesla overlords.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    When Dan disappears I'd like to throw my hat in for consideration for the open position. I for one welcome our new Tesla overlords.

  • insideliner insideliner Posts:

    Nice article, if only Dan would take such a nuanced approach with the crappy navigation and overall look of the new "What's up" department of Edmunds. Just bring back Insideline. I can't spend more than 2 minutes on this website without getting annoyed. Fix it Dan!

  • insideliner insideliner Posts:

    Nice article, if only Dan would take such a nuanced approach with the crappy navigation and overall look of the new "What's up" department of Edmunds. Just bring back Insideline. I can't spend more than 2 minutes on this website without getting annoyed. Fix it Dan!

  • citizen_t citizen_t Posts:

    Dan, as a Software Engineer let me first say that you can rest at ease, there is no way that the bug you described here lead to the first screen dying. As noted by another comment Tesla has already been notified about it and it looks like they are planning a fix for an upcoming version of the software. That said, I totally agree with you that we need to not accept rebooting our software as a routine thing, and I appreciate that you wanted to be able to reproduce the problem for them. Most often I hear things like, "Oh I saw this bug, and there was an error message that I didn't understand and didn't write down, but then I restarted and now I can't reproduce it. I demand you fix it!". Going to the service center while the bug was still reproducible was absolutely the right thing to do if you want the bug fixed. I understand you feel inconvenienced, and I would to (getting sick of reporting bugs to Ford for MySync personally) but I encourage you to judge them on their responsiveness to fixing the bug, not on the fact that you found one.

  • billseven billseven Posts:

    Seriously, just reboot it. Takes 30 seconds and its fixed.

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