Rivian has recalled some 1,400 R1T pickups and R1S SUVs in the United States to remedy faulty defroster and defogger systems.
Fortunately for owners, this is not a physical recall as Rivian will push the fix over-the-air via a software update. Correction—it has already pushed the update.
The EV maker said a previous software update "may have deactivated the defroster and defogger system controls" on certain 2022-2023 Rivian R1T and R1S vehicles. There are 1,463 vehicles affected by the recall and all of them have the defect, according to Rivian.
Obviously, driving a vehicle with diminished windshield defrost performance may increase the risk of a crash due to reduced visibility. Rivian said it is not aware of any crashes, injuries, or fatalities related to this condition.
Interestingly, the OTA software update that has caused the defroster and defogger not to work anymore is the same 2023.42.0 update pushed on November 13 that soft-bricked some Rivian vehicles, killing the infotainment system and resulting in blank screens.
And therein lies the problem, because the defroster and defogger controls on Rivian R1 vehicles are integrated into the infotainment screen and can only be accessed from it. Once the screen dies, there's no way to activate the defroster and defogger.
According to the safety recall report posted on NHTSA's website, "the suspect population is the vehicle count for which the update was installed before Rivian cancelled it;" the population was "determined using OTA update completion data."
Basically, this means the 1,463 Rivian vehicles included in the recall are the same vehicles that got soft-bricked following the OTA update. The EV maker also said in the recall report that similar vehicles not included in the recall did not install the OTA update at issue.
Rivian has already pushed a new OTA software update (2023.42.02) that has restored full functionality to the infotainment system and as a result, the defrost and defogger systems are working once again.
This "recall" will probably fuel the old debate between people who like to have touchscreens in their cars and fans of physical buttons. While both solutions have their advantages and disadvantages, a combination of both sounds like the ideal approach for automakers.
But as we all know, integrating most or all vehicle functions into an infotainment screen is the cheaper solution, and automakers are increasingly adopting the no-buttons philosophy in their new models. Still, it would probably be wise to have backup controls for essential vehicle functions such as the defroster and defogger in the event the infotainment screen dies, don't you think?