So this unconventional wheel is not so bad, and if the reinvention stopped there, the yoke would be fine. But Elon Musk insisted on making it original and went too far. When Tesla introduced the new Model S with the “Yoke” butterfly steering wheel, it was controversial. Some were concerned that the actual shape of the wheel would be problematic, while others were concerned about the lack of a drive stick to choose the driving mode. This actually makes them almost impossible because you don`t have half the circle that would be needed for these techniques, especially for a tighter turn like entering your driveway or making a 90-degree right turn. That is part of the training that would be needed. People develop muscle memory, and it`s an automated response we expect from people, especially in emergencies. But in this case, it would be potentially dangerous if we go hand in hand to avoid an obstacle, especially if our hands are out of the yoke at that time and we will suddenly catch it and it is not there. This is a potential problem. So we need to develop muscle memory for drivers when they drive these vehicles. It`s not so much that it`s a new idea. That`s more than if you have a new idea of how we can change driver behavior so that they are effective in emergency situations or in normal driving situations.
And there is no denying that a yoke steering wheel has certain advantages. For starters, it requires drivers to hold both hands in the three-hour and nine-hour positions, which is safest for vehicle control and airbag deployment. And the yoke allows for a better view of the road in front of you and the screen that displays information while driving. And hey, if F1 drivers can handle that, you can too. However, when Tesla started shipping the new Model S Plaid last year, we were surprised to see that the wheel had a normal 14.0:1 steering ratio and proves impractical at low speeds. Tesla prepares its customers for the disappearance of the steering wheel For once, we can say that Tesla has really reinvented a wheel. For its latest Model S and Model X SUV sedans, the automaker has abandoned the traditional circular steering wheel in favor of a so-called “yoke.” This yoke is rectangular and reminiscent of what you might see in a jet or race car. Tesla CEO Elon Musk hinted that the company made the change because “another round wheel is annoying and blocks the screen,” adding that Tesla`s “fully autonomous driving” feature — controversial due to safety concerns — “looks much better in panoramic mode with a yoke.” Consumer Reports recently published a rigorous review focused solely on the yoke of the Model S and found that the organization`s test pilots found the steering system difficult to hold and cumbersome to maneuver. To get a better idea of how this yoke might affect best driving practices, I spoke with Ryan Pietzsch, Technical Advisor for Driver Safety, Education, and Training at the nonprofit National Safety Council.
Our conversation has been summarized and edited for clarity. And we`re not the only ones confused by this bone-head design choice. Road & Track contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to find out if Tesla`s fly-half is actually legal in the United States. Judging by the explanation we received from NHTSA, no one really knows. “At this time, NHTSA cannot determine whether the steering wheel meets federal motor vehicle safety standards,” the agency told R&T. So if you were to keep that yoke at 9 and 3, would that be an improvement over what a lot of runners are doing right now? Steering inserts and other unconventional directional controls are common in concept cars, but this is the first modern production car we`ve seen to offer a steering wheel that is anything but a full loop. It is an intriguing proposal with no discernible advantages and with a whole series of disadvantages. Imagine trying to park this thing parallel on a busy street and grab a fistful of air where a conventional steering wheel should be. As for the former, we thought the automaker wouldn`t take the risk of launching the controversial steering wheel without a nonlinear steering curve made possible by an electric steering system — especially when you know that Tesla has developed an electric steering system.
How does this yoke affect the safety of the driver in the event of an accident compared to a normal steering wheel? Tesla`s new Yoke steering wheel has been approved for use in several regions, including the UK and the Netherlands. It will certainly depend on your experience. I have many years of experience in driving, so it would take quite a bit of time for me. If I drive this vehicle one day, and then another vehicle another day that has a steering wheel instead of a yoke, these are two new cases where your attention to detail will initially be very high. If we move away from this novelty, this unprecedented situation, it becomes a problem for this automated reaction that you have on the vehicle when something happens. It would take a lot of time and repetition. It depends on the individual, but like any muscle memory, when I`m trying to learn something new, it has to happen at least seven to 10 times simultaneously over periods of time for it to happen automatically. CEO Elon Musk later confirmed that Tesla is indeed working on progressive direction, but that it will take years. But in recent weeks, we`ve seen signs that Tesla is starting to break the wheel of yoke. Another big change with Tesla`s new driving setup is that there`s no traditional turn signal or horn. Instead, press those touch buttons on the yoke itself to honk or activate the turn signal. Does it change anything about driver safety? Again, this is a change, so muscle memory, incorrect activations, these are all potential safety issues.
But is using your windshield wipers a safety issue when it`s not raining? No. It is rather an inconvenience that can actually become a nuisance for the driver. This could be a bit distracting for them, especially at first when all this is new.