Tesla Model S Prototype Spotted With Fabled Steering Yoke

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
tesla model s prototype spotted with fabled steering yoke

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.


[Images: @klwtts/Twitter]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Mar 02, 2021

    Next is the joy stick.

    • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Mar 02, 2021

      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.

  • Dantes_inferno Dantes_inferno on Mar 03, 2021

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

  • Bd2 Other way around.Giorgetto Giugiaro penned the Pony Coupe during the early 1970s and later used its wedge shape as the basis for the M1 and then the DMC-12.The 3G Supra was just one of many Japanese coupes to adopt the wedge shape (actually was one of the later ones).The Mitsubishi Starion, Nissan 300ZX, etc.
  • Tassos I also want one of the idiots who support the ban to explain to me how it will work.Suppose sometime (2035 or later) you cannot buy a new ICE vehicle in the UK.Q1: Will this lead to a ICE fleet resembling that of CUBA, with 100 year old '56 Chevys eventually? (in that case, just calculate the horrible extra pollution due to keeping 100 year old cars on the road)Q2: Will people be able to buy PARTS for their old cars FOREVER?Q3: Will people be allowed to jump across the Channel and buy a nice ICE in France, Germany (who makes the best cars anyway), or any place else that still sells them, and then use it in the UK?
  • Tassos Bans are ridiculous and undemocratic and smell of Middle Ages and the Inquisition. Even 2035 is hardly any better than 2030.The ALMIGHTY CONSUMER should decide, not... CARB, preferably WITHOUT the Government messing with the playing field.And if the usual clueless idiots read this and offer the tired "But Government subsidizes the oil industry too", will they EVER learn that those MINISCULE (compared to the TRILLIONS of $ size of this industry) subsidies were designed to help the SMALL Oil producers defend themselves against the "Big Oil" multinationals. Ask ANY major Oil co CEO and he will gladly tell you that you can take those tiny subsidies and shove them.
  • Dusterdude The suppliers can ask for concessions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath . With the UAW they are ultimately bound to negotiate with them. However, with suppliers , they could always find another supplier ( which in some cases would be difficult, but not impossible)
  • AMcA Phoenix. Awful. The roads are huge and wide, with dedicated lanes for turning, always. Requires no attention to what you're doing. The roads are idiot proofed, so all the idiots drive - they have no choice, because everything is so spread out.