By on March 1, 2021

Several weeks ago, Tesla officially announced planned updates to the Model S and Model X as part of a comprehensive refresh. The vehicles would be getting more interior screens, improved software, and a top-of-the-line “Plaid” trim. Customers are also supposed to be given the option of purchasing a butterfly-shaped steering rig — which was quite the surprise.

While the system works well on airplanes and dedicated racing vehicles, using a yoke to navigate smoothly around town is an exercise in futility. Their design may make it easy to make mid-corner adjustments at high speeds, but they lack the ability to make a complete rotation with any fluidity. As such, many believed Tesla would tone things down from conceptual renderings and the steering wheel would be a yoke in name only. But they appear to have been mistaken. Over the weekend, a Twitter user started leaking shots of a prototype Model S sporting the rectangular steering… uh… wheel? 

Twitter user @klwtts shared the images on Saturday (h/t InsideEVs) nabbing what looks to be the bowels of an older test vehicle lacking some of the new features — like the creepy, driver-facing camera — despite boasting others. It appears identical to the yoke seen on mockups of the updated interior provided by the manufacturer. Uncluttered, the rig seems to have two dedicated nubbins for controls traditionally found on the steering hub (rain removal, volume adjustments, cluster menus, etc).

Our worry is that the yoke will be an upgrade in the same sense that clip-on handlebars are for motorcycles. That means enhancing performance at the limit while spoiling its ability to be casually (and comfortably) piloted about below the posted speed limits. They do both look very cool in the place of more traditional controls, however, and we imagine that’s the biggest concern for many would-be buyers.

But that all becomes irrelevant if safety regulators ultimately decide Tesla can’t sell them. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration previously told Road & Track that it wasn’t even sure if the design met meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. That doesn’t appear to have changed, with the NHTSA explaining that it’s still working with the automaker on deciding the legality of its yoke over a month later.

Frankly, we’re not quite so concerned if it meets those increasingly arbitrary standards. Government regulators have shown a real willingness to bend the rules for automakers with deep pockets whenever there are gray areas and safety regulations have a bad habit of spoiling or even killing off some of our favorite designs (e.g. Dodge Viper). Our big fear is that a yoke might make something like the Model S horrible to drive in regular traffic, even if it gets a tighter steering ratio (likely a necessity) for that one time its owner decided to take it to a racetrack. Then again, Plaid models are supposed to be capable of reaching 60 mph in under two seconds (thanks to a claimed output of 1,100 horsepower). If similar attention is given to the cars’ handling at the limit, maybe the yoke will make some kind of sense.

https://twitter.com/klwtts/status/1365757552055648256?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1365757561232781313%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es2_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Finsideevs.com%2Fnews%2F491176%2Fphotos-tesla-model-s-plaid-yoke-steering%2F

[Images: @klwtts/Twitter]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

46 Comments on “Tesla Model S Prototype Spotted With Fabled Steering Yoke...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I had thought this terrible idea was going to be standard equipment. If it’s truly optional, I can’t imagine many takers.

    • 0 avatar
      RangerM

      I can’t see how cruising down the highway isn’t made less comfortable without the option to hang your hand/wrist at the top of the steering wheel.

      I’m sure the XBox generation will love it, until they realize it’s not comfortable for long periods. Maybe range anxiety, becomes range relief.

      • 0 avatar
        Urlik

        As a 30 year firefighter, I’ve seen many a broken wrist and/or nose from people who are one handing the top of the wheel when the airbag activates. It’s a bad habit that can cause extra injuries.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    It depends on if you shuffle steer. Or just put a Brodie knob on it. You know you were going to anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “Or just put a Brodie knob on it”

      That’s sort of what the two protrusions/horns at the top right and left do. I’ve seen that before. If done right, it’s actually easier to spin than a round wheel. The horns are usually larger, but these look like they’d work. I’ll see if I can find a youtube video somewhere.

      Also, if there is some sort of extreme variable boost, it could work. Personally, if it was an option, I’d have to try it first.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Michael, Elon Musk stole my steering wheel…

  • avatar
    merfk

    If the steering wheel is square don’t the driving wheels need to be square too?

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I think this could be implemented in software, such that the relationship between the steering wheels’ angle and the yoke angle would be a function of vehicle speed. There would be no physical connection between the yoke and the steering gear. In other words, at very slow speeds full rotation of the yoke (say 90 degrees) would generate maximum steering angle for the wheels. As vehicle speed increased, the amount of steering angle for the wheels produced in response to full rotation of the yoke would be less and less. There’s no need to achieve full lock of the wheels at 60 miles an hour.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      I have to agree. With a variable ratio, one quarter turn in either direction would suffice for full lock. Also, ratio would vary with speed.

      It might take a bit of adjustment but, I suspect, it would begin to feel natural pretty quickly. After all, we don’t look at the wheel to determine how much to turn it to get the right amount of steering, we depend upon a feedback loop fed from our perceptions of how much the vehicle is changing direction.

    • 0 avatar
      Old_WRX

      DC Bruce,

      “There’s no need to achieve full lock of the wheels at 60 miles an hour.”

      Man, you’re taking all the fun out of it…

  • avatar
    jmo2

    That’s what they use in Formula 1. I assume they have their reasons.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Reason being lock to lock is like 270 degrees total rotation. In a road car where you need to rotate the wheel beyond 360 degrees this type of wheel has some disadvantages.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo2

        Why shouldn’t a regular car be 270 lock to lock? It’s not like power steering is a new technology.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          Sure, just set the requirements for a drivers license to that of an F1 license and ensure all of the roads are maintained like your average F1 track. Don’t forget to maintain your suspension like an F1 car.

          Steering that quick would be a handfull on the street.

          Bump the wheel reaching for that latte…oh, you are in the oncoming lane.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo2

            You’re making a lot of assumptions about variable rate power steering and a whole host of together things. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Nah, people tend to overcorrect as it is. I agree with Art. On the way home my dog bumped my arm and it didn’t even leave the lane marking.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            What is the benefit then? You are taking away capability with this because you want the steering wheel to look cool.

            A few years back people had issue with simple changes to the traditional automatic shifter.

            Can you make it work with some sort of electronic variable deal? Probably. But where is the advantage outside of looking like K.I.T.T. But you do take away capability, as pointed out in other threads.

            If you are going to change an interface that was adopted 100+ years ago, fine…technology does advance, but you need to have a good reason. I haven’t seen that here.

            But the Tesla faithful will love it and scoff at round steering wheels I am sure. I can live with that.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            And I think you are a $#!+head

  • avatar
    dal20402

    More safety-ignoring asshattery from Elon Musk, marketed at the same halfwits who believe him when he says “Full Self Driving” and go on to let Autopilot crash them into bridge abutments. I hope the first person to be hurt because the driver of a yoke-equipped Model S trips over their own hands trying to take evasive action gets a nice fat settlement that includes a recall of every single yoke-equipped vehicle to install a street-appropriate steering wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “because the driver of a yoke-equipped Model S trips over their own hands trying to take evasive action”

      So, you’re cruising along at 60 mph, and the only way to avoid an obstacle requires you to crank the steering wheel 360 degrees? That’s not going to happen.

      • 0 avatar

        “So, you’re cruising along at 60 mph, and the only way to avoid an obstacle requires you to crank the steering wheel 360 degrees? That’s not going to happen.”

        LOL. These conservative never stop amazing me. Elon knows what he is doing and in couple of years traditional steering wheel will be dead – every car will be equipped with Tesla style steering yoke.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          “…every car will be equipped with Tesla style steering yoke.”

          That may be true, but it will be more like Apple ditching the headphone jack and everyone else following suit. Sure, they all followed the lead, but the end result was of no tangible benefit to the consumer and took away capability.

          it is change for the sake of change so people can feel like Michael Knight driving down the road.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        You start skidding and need full lock immediately.

        In the kind of car that should actually be equipped with a yoke, you get full lock by turning the wheel 135 degrees or so.

        In a street car, you do need a full turn or more to get it.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          If your car’s rear end ever comes around faster than you can rotate the wheel one and a half times, only maybe Danny Sullivan can save it at that point.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The issue is that you can do that rotation a lot faster with a real wheel than this movie prop.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Hand placement would differ, but I can’t see how it would be a slower crank. Anyway, you don’t need speed in that action, you need accuracy. Flailing from lock to lock is how drivers lose it.

            Again, if the oscillation snaps that fast, where you can’t point the wheels where you want to go fast enough, you’re not saving it no matter what you do.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      ^This.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      DAL s comment at 7.12 is spot on.

      More vapor ware from Elon.

      Yoke not possible. Wont expend effort on typing HOW UTTERLY BS THIS IS.

      OUT

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    From the videos, it doesn’t look like steering with the yoke is any faster than steering with a wheel in other cars. I could see a yoke, which limits rotation to ±180°, working if the steering ratio varied with speed. Lock to lock in -180° to +180° at parking lot speeds slowing to a typical steering ratio at highway speeds. I’d want to spend some time driving one before making a decision. It could be a deal killer.

    I remember reading that the MG TC was 1.1 turns lock to lock. Supposedly, auto haulers drove a few of them over the side while backing off the truck.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m sure it’ll function. It’ll just be an unnecessary hassle like other features the brand likes to showcase.
    I guess Tesla buyers are into that sort of unique whimsy, but I’m personally not especially interested.

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    This is Tesla way of weaning us off from driving and into self driving cars. Now they chop the steering wheel in half and then it will be cut into a quarter and then there will be no steering wheel at all.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    This is like the gull wing doors on the Model X. Different, but not better.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I had a friend with this “futuristic” option on their slammed 80’s Toyota truck circa 1992. It also had a bed full of speakers and a removable roof.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    All I know is Tesla has a better chance getting into our garage as our next car than Lexus does with their auto playing video ads in the middle of these stories.

    While I am at it, the comments section still sucks. It is horrible trying to leave a comment and read the rest of the comments afterwards.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    On EV forums, it’s kinda fun reading Tesla fans getting excited about the yolk and ready to fight anyone who dares criticize it. If they’re to be believed, most of us have been steering our cars wrong our whole lives, gear selector, windshield wiper and turn signal stalks are so “old tech” and anyone with an IQ over 40 can figure out how to use a yoke in 5 minutes.

    I suppose steering a car will be done by touchscreen next.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Next is the joy stick.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The BMW joy stick shifter handle which is dysfunctional and counterintuitive for a lot of people. Also the awkward i drive system. Modernism for modernization sake isn’t always the best thing.

  • avatar
    dantes_inferno

    Their next yoke design goes around the driver’s neck – like a yoke on an ox.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Jeff S: Yes, you should have seen all the trucks parked and Amazon trailers, pictures don’t give you a real...
  • BSttac: Well it went so well the first time these two partnered up, why not try it again…
  • Lou_BC: My ex- BIL had a Platinum F150 on 20’s and I had an XLT on 18’s. Spec wise, there wasn’t...
  • Lou_BC: @Carlson Fan – If a 5.3 and 6.2 truck are on the lot with the same options I want, I’ll buy the...
  • Lou_BC: Wow

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber