Tesla is replacing faulty Autopilot cameras in some cars, internal documents say


Robotics arms install the front seats to the Tesla Model 3 at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, on Thursday, July 26, 2018.

Mason Trinca | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Tesla is replacing repeater cameras in the front fenders of at least several hundred Model S, X and 3 vehicles made in Fremont, California, although the company has not yet initiated a voluntary recall, according to internal service documents the company distributed in late November.

Internal communications said that the repeater cameras on some Model S, X and 3 vehicles made by Tesla in the U.S. have faulty PCBs, or printed circuit boards, inside. A bad PCB can lead to the cameras losing “electrical continuity” and failing well before those cameras could be reasonably expected to need an upgrade or replacement.

Repeater cameras, which are positioned below and slightly in front of the side view mirrors in the front fenders of some Tesla vehicles, enable driver assistance features, like Autopilot, Navigate on Autopilot and Smart Summon, for example. They also provide drivers with visibility into what’s happening around their car’s blind spots.

When the repeater cameras are not working, drivers typically see a black box or choppy video feed on their Tesla’s main display, and they may get alerts that their Autopilot function is limited. Drive Tesla, a Canadian blog for Tesla owners and enthusiasts, wrote about the repeater camera issues in December 2020.

Since Tesla has identified an issue with PCBs in the repeater cameras, owners of affected vehicles could be eligible to receive a “goodwill” repair, according to a current Tesla sales manager and a former parts manager. A goodwill repair is done on the company’s dime, versus a repair where the customer pays or a warranty agreement that obligates Tesla to provide the repair.

The former parts manager said internal service notices can sometimes precede a voluntary recall. However, this person said, these notices usually just authorize service employees to give a goodwill repair to customers who complain about having to pay to replace a part.

The current employee asked to remain unnamed because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, and the former employee sought anonymity citing privacy concerns.

Tesla also recently initiated voluntary recalls for thousands of Model Y crossover utility vehicles made in China and the US due to suspension parts that can fracture too easily, increasing the risk of a crash according to public notices in both countries.

The Model Y suspension knuckle recalls in China and the US were announced by China’s State Administration for Market Regulation, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S. They affected an estimated 21,599 vehicles in China and 826 in the U.S.

Tesla did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

This article was originally published on CNBC