Video raises concerns over Tesla's new steering "yoke"

Tesla steering yoke demonstration drives criticism on social media

Driver says he had to 'unlearn round wheel steering techniques'

A VIDEO of a Tesla owner demonstrating the new Model S’s controversial new steering yoke has been posted to social media, and the control device immediately attracted strong criticism from technology and motoring commentators.

The aircraft-style yoke, which was announced in January as one of a number of updates for the updated Model S saloon, caught the attention of the motoring press and Teslerati alike for its disregard for convention. On its website, Tesla says that the yoke represents “the ultimate focus on driving: no stalks, no shifting. Model S is the best car to drive, and to be driven in.”

Its legality was questioned but the Department for Transport (DfT) told “The regulations relating to steering equipment (UN-ECE Regulation 79) does not stipulate any shape or size of the steering wheel.” Steering control devices only have to be free of excessive movement, play, wear or damage that may render a vehicle dangerous.

The video demonstration shows a recent buyer of a Model S, who identifies himself as Omar, driving on roads and in car parks around his house. It was retweeted by tech YouTuber Quinn Nelson, who criticised the amount of lock required when turning, which results in Omar’s hands getting crossed up. Nelson points out that while F1 cars have similar yoke-style steering wheels, the steering rack sensitivity is dialled-up to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Nelson said he was in disbelief that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the department of the US’ Department for Transportation that deals with road safety, had allowed the yoke steering wheel to make it to roads.

It has been noted that the yoke design is usually intended to discourage drivers from turning — one of their notable uses is in drag racers.

Matt Farah, host of the Smoking Tire podcast, said that the only way that the yoke would have worked is if the steering ratio had been altered accordingly.

Speaking to Jalopnik, the person who uploaded the video said that it was “never meant to be a demonstration of ease of use,” and that it quickly spread after being shared on forum website Reddit. He then uploaded a second, narrated video, taken around three days after he purchased the car, in which he claims the new Model S steering yoke is easy to use.

“I feel like it’s easier, and I’m thinking about it less,” he says in the video. “One of the tricks is to stop using round-wheel steering techniques.”

When the new Model S was unveiled, the yoke steering wheel also caused controversy for its lack of gear shifter or indicator stalks, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk defended on Twitter:

Having made it to production, Tesla seems to have compromised this vision slightly, by adding indicator buttons beneath the two scroll balls on the left side of the yoke.