By on June 29, 2021

Tesla

Tesla’s steering yoke is making news again, sort of, in part because of a video circulating Twitter and in part because our competition over at Jalopnik took some bad-faith criticism over a minor mistake.

I won’t get too deep into the weeds over the Jalopnik kerfuffle, which involved a yoke, an exposed airbag, and an incorrect claim of car ownership from a TikTok user — it’s beside the point of this QOTD — other to point out that even if the author got the ownership of the car wrong, it doesn’t change the main concern at hand about the airbag falling out. And it’s disingenuous, intellectually dishonest bullshit to use an honest mistake our peers made to try to distract from the main problem.

Rant over (sorry, I have just about had it up to here with bad faith and intellectual dishonesty, especially on Twitter, and especially from the Tesla cult) — let’s get to the question I actually want to ask. Would you want to drive a car with a yoke?

On the one hand, I grew up watching the Hoff and KITT in Knight Rider and thought the yoke was pretty damn cool. On the other, the videos I saw on Twitter seem to suggest that maybe it’s not very practical.

How about you? Would you wheel a car using a yoke? Or are they best left for aircraft and bad ’80s crime dramas?

[Image: Tesla]

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53 Comments on “QOTD: Would You Drive a Yoke?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I think Chrysler did this back in the 50s/60s… No yoke, really

    https://www.macsmotorcitygarage.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/1962-Imperial-red.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I thought of that, but this isn’t nearly as “yoke-y.”

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      When I saw the picture of the Elon Musk “Yoke” I immediately thought of Virgil Exner era Mopar. In that instance he was just being daring from a styling standpoint and not function. It was also the era that gave us the Powerflite push buttons on the left side of the dash and the Edsel steering wheel center transmission buttons which apparently had a number of quality control issues later to be dropped on the 59 and 60 models.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    If I am driving a formula car, yes. Street car, probably not. I would give it a try to confirm how bad it seems to be. :)

  • avatar
    FerrariLaFerrariFace

    I have low expectations, but I stand firmly in the “don’t knock it till you try it” camp.
    How could the Hoff be wrong?

  • avatar
    ScarecrowRepair

    I don’t think I’d care one way or the other. It takes up less room than a wheel, but its shape would instinctively feed back its position, both by feel and by sight. I remember Jack Baruth, I think, had an article here on why you should always keep your hands in place on the steering wheel, never feed the wheel from hand to hand, so that if you have to straighten up in a hurry, your hands know where straight ahead is. No matter how valid that analysis was, it wasn’t practical when you have to turn the wheel very far, like in a parking lot, and a yoke would give you that feedback without needing to think.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Baruth is correct. When doing high speed driving your hands should never move from the 9 & 3 positions. The problem is in parking lots where slow, tight turns require going hand over hand or when reversing where a different grip is more comfortable (and logical).

      Best answer: yes for race car, no for street car.

      I think this why the C8 has a square wheel, its the best compromise, it forces you to maintain that ideal 9 & 3 grip while still giving you something to grab in those other situations.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Jack’s a hack. Anyway, it’s the front wheels that need to be pointed straight ahead, or at the exit of the turn, escape route between the cars, trees, etc, not the steering wheel.

        Places for your thumbs to rest while at “9 and 3” are perfect, this one has them, my F-150 has them, every car and truck I’ve owned has them. The rim, the rest, who cares?

        For low speeds, parking, etc, your hands figure it out. One finger in a spoke and stir works too.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I could keep my hands in the yoke position for the entirety of a drive between my local freeway entrance and the next state, but to get from my house to said freeway entrance I have to go hand-over-hand at least six times.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        It’s a Tesla, you don’t have to have your hands on the wheel! ;)

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Bwahahahaha!

          I always go back to hand-over-hand in a pinch, so I prefer the wheel, although the bottom rim could facilitate a hand-over-hand after a little adjustment period. Sort of like the pushbutton shift controls in my 2019 Accord that everyone and their sister likes to rag on; it becomes second nature if you daily one for longer than an autojourno’s loan period. (Ironically, I still occasionally reach up to the overhead console to try to open the garage, instead of the HomeLink controls on the mirror.)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I don’t think so.

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    It was stupid back in Knight Rider and it’s still stupid now.

  • avatar
    Jimf

    I would definitely if the steering ratio is appropriate to it.

    • 0 avatar
      cammark

      I agree, sort of.

      A yoke or any non-circular steering “interface” is fine IF lock-to-lock is not much more than 180°. Dragsters, Open-wheel racecars, airplanes- they all regularly have yokes and full steering input is generally 180° or less.

      In a passenger vehicle driven on public roads steering will be very sensitive if a typical turning radius is maintained with a lock-to-lock of 180-200°. adjusting resistance or steering weight through the electric power steering could counteract that sensitivity but the question is would that be enough?

      my real question though, what problem is a yoke solving that a wheel creates?

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        “my real question though, what problem is a yoke solving that a wheel creates?”

        Precisely. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. So you can get used to a yoke with a little practice that isn’t required in the first place, and gain no advantages whatsoever. This is an advance, how? Why?

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “what problem is a yoke solving that a wheel creates?”

        the problem of not enough PR for Musk.

        Would I drive a yoke? No more than I’d suck Musk off, which is all he’s really looking for.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Tesla is the gimmick company. The yoke is a gimmick. 80% of car buyers would prefer a wheel. A wheel works better. FULL STOP. Tesla is about buzz and ‘cool’ features that are not features. This appeals to techies and geeks. My sample list:

    – Elon is always in the news with outlandish claims, Fanciful predictions and 20% actual true stuff. He s like Bill Clinton. When he was president, there was a program or initiative or announcement EVERY DAY. Pound pound pound – out there every day. Cyber truck. Announced NOV 2019. Wont start building until NOV 2022. It was announced 3 yrs in advance and he is jerking with the buyers. AND it will be vastly different when made.
    – Products with USELESS features. Gullwings for the back door. Run everything -even things that work much better with buttons and knobs- through the TV screen.
    – Promise and CHARGE buyers for self driving that is not self driving.

    Tesla has made some great innovations and the cars are FAST. But the whole techie geekie carnie barker schtick aint my speed. You can have it.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed.

      The round steering wheel has served drivers well for a century. Changing an ergonomic feature like that doesn’t work well because human anatomy doesn’t change, and there is no value-add to the change.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      It’s the problem with running a car company out of Silicon Valley. Everyone geeks out on “easter eggs” and UI updates, instead of concentrating on what’s the most natural and expected interaction with a product that can literally kill you if you don’t operate it right in a split-second emergency situation. There’s a reason that every single car sold for operation on the street today shares the same basic interface for making it go, turn and stop.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep. That digital whoopee cushion and Romance Mode dashboard fireplace puts the Knight 2000 novelty steering wheel into context as the pointless frippery it really is.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Unlike the KITT car, at least there’s a bottom rim. Of course, KITT was conceived as an autonomous vehicle. (I remember the episode where Michael was a passenger, and a blind lady was at the yoke, with KITT doing the heavy lifting. I also remember the opening scene of another episode where Michael was fast asleep at the controls, KITT chillin’ in the right lane at the double-nickel, earning a surprised look from the moto cop alongside!)

        Interesting thought just occurred to me: Musk is trying to cater to people who grew up watching stuff like that! Unfortunately, a lot of idiots can’t distinguish between make-believe and reality!

        Since that yoke sort of forces your hands into a more fixed position versus a wheel, I would hope they placed the air bag vents away from there.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Elon Musk is trying to build Tie Fighter controls into his futuristic cars.

      The problem is, there’s no way to attach The Club to a yoke.

  • avatar
    Daveo

    Adding to the list of things Tesla changes to get attention from the media. Sorry, but it’s a stupid idea as well as the lack of a mechanical gear changer. I guess all the Tesla sycophants disagree but it’s still a no sale from me. It’s needlessly dangerous.

  • avatar
    wolfwagen

    … “(sorry, I have just about had it up to here with bad faith and intellectual dishonesty, especially on Twitter, and especially from the Tesla cult).”

    Really Tim? based on your previous posting on Toyota and political contributions you are the last one to talk about bad faith and intellectual dishonesty.

    Who are you, Brian Stelter’s retarted half-brother? On the plus side at least you are writing about automotive stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “Who are you, Brian Stelter’s retarted half-brother?”

      Amusing that you can’t even spell your insult correctly. The word you’re struggling with is “retarded”. Buzz off, troll.

      But let’s stay with the “retarded” thread, shall we? I guess that as far as you’re concerned, anyone who disagrees with you politically is developmentally disabled. Given that, why should anyone actually take your opinion seriously?

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        He’s a troll for misspelling something? Around here they don’t call people that can’t spell trolls…they call them copy editors.

      • 0 avatar
        wolfwagen

        I was referring to Tim’s Bad faith and intellectual dishonesty regarding his bitchy political rant that had absolutely no DIRECT IMPACT on the automotive world.

        “Buzz off troll” – is that the last thing your mom hears when she leaves the bar or is that what you say to her when you kick her out of your bedroom?

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Insulting people’s mothers? Wow, impressive

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @lie:

            Well, at least he spelled all his insults correctly this time. On the other hand, “mom” is a pretty easy word to spell. Still…progress!!!!

            @Art:
            This guy’s standard of “intellectual honesty” is “he has to agree with me 100% and if he doesn’t, he’s just doing a b*tchy political rant and clearly he’s retarded.” In other words, he’s a troll.

      • 0 avatar
        wolfwagen

        Freed

        Sure I’m a troll because I want an automotive site that doesn’t want to involve politics unless it DIRECTLY impacts the automotive world.

        Was there anything in Tim’s post (Rant) that would affect the performance, manufacturing, safety, emissions, design, etc. of Automobiles? NO.

        Was there anything in Tim’s post (rant) that would affect Toyota’s manufacturing, financials, regulatory compliance, etc; or cause them legal jeopardy? NO.

        I used Brian Stelter as a reference because everyone knows he is the worst of the worst. Obviously, I should have used FreedMike.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          “…DIRECTLY impacts the automotive world.”

          Hmmm…I’d say people deciding to buy or not buy from a brand directly impacts the automotive world, particularly when the brand is Toyota. People routinely view their buy/don’t buy decisions through a political lens all the time, don’t they?

          And if Toyota sells fewer cars because of this, that directly affects the company, does it not? And you never know – they might actually sell MORE cars because of this.

          Does Toyota’s sales situation affect the automotive world? I’d say it does. Does this little episode illustrate the pitfalls of mixing business and politics? That’s true too.

          Therefore, your argument that this doesn’t affect “the automotive world” is complete crap. Then again, it came from a guy who misspelled the word he used to insult someone’s intelligence, and clearly doesn’t grasp that marketing is very much part of the “automotive world”, so as I said…why should I take what you said seriously?

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Honestly, since Toyota is a profitable entity that has never depended on my tax dollars to exist I don’t really care who they give their cash to.

            I’m way more concerned with the dollars GM and Stelantis are throwing around.

          • 0 avatar
            wolfwagen

            I highly doubt Toyota will lose sales over this. If they do they are from the far ends of the political spectrum. Have you seen this story in any major news organization? No. Axios and here.
            Most people do not know about what Toyota did and if they did probably don’t care. Rational people know they contribute to both sides. Also, Tim had no proof that this was going to affect sales, no one is talking about a boycott or anything like that.
            Anyone who would use this story as a deciding factor in purchasing a vehicle is again at the far end of the political spectrum. As in Tim’s post a little digging shows that toyota Contributes more to Dems. A good salesman can calm the crazed customer down with this fact and a few freebies or trinkets. This story is a pimple on the butt of the automotive industry.

            BTW keep harping on a misspelling, I guess you never accidentally misspelled a word while typing. Not all of us can be as perfect as you: nice and symmetrical, perfect curl and nice taper.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Silly, gimmicky feature. I’ll pass.

  • avatar
    carguy949

    I currently own a 2014 Model S and plan on getting a new Model S Long Range in a few months, so this is very relevant to me. I think the yoke may improve visibility of the instrument panel some, and it looks kinda cool, and it’s certainly part gimmick. I have reservations but I’m keeping an open mind. I plan to wait a few months to see how this shakes out in real life. If people end up really liking it; beyond the fan boy early adopters, great. If the cars with the yoke turn out to be in more accidents, I’ll wait for them to go back to the traditional steering wheel.

  • avatar
    mcs

    I can see where it would help visibility and I could get used to it. Then again, Randy Pobst had it ripped out and replaced on the Pikes Peak car, so I’m not so confident that I’d be totally comfortable on the winding roads that I usually drive. If there was a choice, I’d really have to try it out before ordering it with the car. I have plenty of experience with quick response yokes and I’m fine with that, so I could probably get used to the novocaine version as long as I don’t try racing Pikes Peak I suppose. I’ve always managed to get cars that somehow seem to block part of the dash for me with the top of the wheel and it is a pet peeve of mine, so there is a trade-off I suppose.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m pretty sure that ergonomics aren’t really Tesla’s primary concern. If it was, the Model 3’s instrument panel wouldn’t be in the centre stack, where “it’s actually surprisingly usable” is the highest praise I’ve heard about it.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @rustmyenemy: Personally, I’m used to center stack cars. It’s probably why cars without them annoy me when the wheel rim is blocking something. I think you’re right about ergonomics not being their priority. On the 3 I think it was about cost first followed by style. On the S, I think the yoke is mainly about style.

  • avatar
    pb35

    Yeah, no thanks.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    No. I drive mostly in the city and spend a lot of time making sharp turns and cranking the wheel lock-to-lock to park. No sale unless the yoke is replaced with a conventional wheel. Fortunately for Model S buyers the Model 3/Y wheel should be a direct drop-in.

  • avatar
    randy in rocklin

    Unless, they come up with a system that changes the steering ratio, i.e variable ratio steering. It work increase the turning when parking and minimal feedback at high speeds. In other words you don’t want the same ratio when parking and going at higher speeds.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It doesn’t change the dynamics. Nor would it if I cut off the top rim or third of your steering wheel and the bottom fifth while you’re in the store, basically left you with what you see here. You’d make it home alright.

      They’re places your hands don’t need to be for normal driving, and your hands aren’t specifically, left at 9, right at 3. They can switch places at any point too. Either hand can go 180+ while the other plays with the radio, or hands it off to go 360 if need be, same as any steering wheel. No need to change the ratio.

      It’s just gimmicky as said. And you don’t want the steering too sensitive, no matter the shape or form of the wheel.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    This was mentioned when this stupid thing was anounced by many on here and all of the drawbacks were pointed out. The Tesla Fanbois asssured us all that we didn’t know what we were talking about and that Elon would address these with some sort of variable rate set up and something about rockets landing.

    I’m not sure where they all went.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I’m still in the “I’d like to try it first” camp. We didn’t get the variable ratio and that’s an issue. The big red flag for me was Randy Pobst having them remove it from the Pikes Peak car. I have to deal with roads like that and if Randy couldn’t make work, even at half the speed I don’t know what it will be like. I could easily make it work fine in a parking lot with some of the techniques other have mentioned, but really tight switchback and hairpin turns could be an issue. I do have a lot of experience with yoke steering, but the ratio I’m used to is much much higher than the S.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        “I’d like to try it…”

        You’re overthinking it. Just don’t use the top part of your wheel (in your car) and you’ll get the same effect.

        Your hands are smarter than you think. They’ll figure it out.

        Even though I don’t have a particular problem with it, I don’t see an upside to it either. Definitely if someone did it to my truck, I’d tell them to put it back to stock.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          You can also get kind of a suicide knob effect from the horns at the tops of the steering wheel. As I’ve been thinking about it, the question is now down to how it behaves on a switchback and what the ratio is like in that case.

          I’m really good with buttons on the wheel and have no problem with that. In fact, every car I have I make extensive use of the buttons on the wheel.

          I still suspect this is going to be a fad. There are already some photos of the Toyota EV with a yoke. We’ll probably see it elsewhere as well.

          Now, whether I order the car is another story. While I can afford it, when it comes to a daily driver that gets beat up, I tend to get really cheap. For high-end going out and long trips, maybe. Although, I’m hoping Porsche takes that QuantumState lightweight solid-state battery and uses it in a Caymen/Boxster sort of car. That’s probably 3 or 4 years away though.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Switchbacks are no different than any other turns. I tried it on the way to and from the hiking trail this morning, pretending the top of the wheel wasn’t there. To make a hard right, I found it easier to grab the left side with my right hand, go past 180 and take over with my left to go more. Nothing was different otherwise. I’m not sure why you think the ratio would need to change.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I would try it for novelty’s sake, but the Model S is nowhere near my price range anyway and it’s moot about whether I’d buy it. I’ve only ever used an allegedly sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel, thought it was weird, moved on.

    In the past I have had minor issue adjusting a wheel so as to make instruments visible, without cutting some bits oot of view, however with a decent HUD it’s a non-issue. My Mazda is the first car I’ve ever had with a HUD and it’s pretty neat. Once I got used to being able to glance slightly down, I can see why it’s helpful or interesting.

    As for other ergonomic changes which were derided by some and met with a resounding meh by others was the centrally placed instrument binacle. I drove my friend’s Ion with one, liked it.

    I would also drive a modified tiller, which spins about the same axis, with a trucker ball, for novelty’s sake, though such a thing doesn’t exist.

  • avatar
    multicam

    This falls squarely in the “if it ain’t broke” category for me like the PRND shifter without actual physical feedback which in a Grand Cherokee killed Anton Yelchin.

    What Star Trek actor will the Yoke kill?

  • avatar
    mcs

    Just a reminder, Tesla’s competition has things worse than a yoke steering in the works. I think when GM got wind of the yoke wheel, one of their engineers said “hold my beer”:

    https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/01/22/276146/gms-cruise-has-unveiled-a-self-driving-car-with-no-steering-wheel/

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