2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests
  • Comparison
  • Long-Term (7)

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

Most Recommended Comments

By drcomputer
on 03/08/13
9:04 PM PST

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.

Recommend  (24) (17)

Report it

By mensadoc
on 03/08/13
10:52 AM PST

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? :-)

Recommend  (16) (4)

Report it

By quadricycle
on 03/08/13
7:52 AM PST

"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.

Recommend  (15) (3)

Report it

Research Models


Edmunds Insurance Estimator

TCO® insurance data for this vehicle coming soon...

For an accurate quote, contact our trusted partner below.

* Explanation