Tesla is finally giving up on only offering its controversial “yoke” steering wheel by starting to give the option of a round steering wheel for Model S and Model X.
When Tesla unveiled the new Model S with the “yoke” butterfly steering wheel, it was controversial. Some were worried about the actual shape of the wheel being problematic, while others were concerned about the lack of drive stalk to choose the drive mode.
As for the former, we thought that the automaker wouldn’t risk bringing the controversial yoke steering wheel to market without a nonlinear steering curve enabled by a steer-by-wire system – especially knowing that Tesla has been developing a steer-by-wire system.
However, as Tesla started deliveries of the new Model S Plaid last year, we were surprised to see that the wheel had a normal 14.0:1 steering ratio, and it is proving to be impractical at lower speeds.
There are even some driving scenarios where the butterfly not only becomes impractical but potentially dangerous.
For example, if you lose control on an icy road, it could be harder to do some quick maneuvers to regain control.
CEO Elon Musk later confirmed that Tesla is indeed working on progressive steering, but it’s still years away.
As for the lack of stalks, Tesla replaced all of their functions with force touch buttons on the wheel, even for things like turn signals and the horn. Musk’s logic is that “all input is an error,” and that the car should automatically perform all the functions that were on the stalks (now on the force touch buttons).
However, much like Tesla’s self-driving program, the capability is not quite there yet.
Musk brushed off those concerns and indicated that the yoke would be the way forward as it offers “better visibility.”
But in February 2022, we started to see Tesla potentially offering the option of a round steering wheel and the backend of the configurator code, but nothing was offered all year.
Finally, Tesla updated its online configurator for Model S and Model X today to add the option of a round steering wheel:
Top comment by Mike
There are many issues with the yoke:
Turn signals aren’t intuitive, and lack tactile borders to know when your finger is in the correct place.
The horn button is dangerous - you have to look down at the yoke to find the horn! This should be a center press on the yoke (or wheel).
The rest of the “buttons” also lack a tactile feel, so you must look down to use them.
Having the auto-pilot-ish functions on the right scroll button/wheel is fine, but having its functionality be potentially different for each driver (click once/twice) violates many norms of a car interface (and is potentially dangerous).
The yoke becomes a terrible choice when using self driving in certain intersection - a tight turn will make the yoke spin rapidly and, again, is potentially dangerous to your hands.
The turn signal “buttons” get even more confusing when you have to go between two tight turns - the yoke is inverted, which button do you press? Look down at the yoke…
The yoke works well for regular highway driving.
The option doesn’t come with a different price, and it doesn’t seem to affect the delivery timeline.
It’s wild that this wasn’t an option almost two years ago when Tesla first launched the Model S refresh.
But the shape of the steering wheel was only one of the concerns with the yoke steering wheel. The lack of stalk was also a concern for many people.
Personally, I also share concerns with the automation of some of the tasks associated with the stalks, but I think the force touch buttons work well enough that the shape was my main concern. Therefore, I am happy to finally see it as an option.
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