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 Driving.co.uk: “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.
This dude uses the yoke in the Tesla Model S and it looks abysmal. Turning rotation is so stupid (Model S is 900° (F1 car with same “yoke-style” is 300-400°)) and the dude accidentally hits the horn on the dumb, rotating, capacitive buttons at 1:45. BAD! https://t.co/k5mrARRB0D
— Quinn Nelson (@SnazzyQ) June 13, 2021
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.
Yokes are designed such that your hands don’t much move from 9 and 3 o’clock. That gives you just over 180° from center both left and right before you need to move your hands (which is the point at which anything other than a WHEEL is moronic). I can’t believe NHTSA allowed this.
— Quinn Nelson (@SnazzyQ) June 13, 2021
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.
The *only* reason F1 cars use yoke wheels is because they never ever have to do anything that requires removing your hand from a wheel. They didn’t change the steering ratio in the model S. This is the dumbest non-fix of a non-problem ever.
— Matt Farah (@TheSmokingTire) June 14, 2021
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.”
Of course they did
— E. Scott FitzGerald (@FitzStartz) June 14, 2021
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:
No more stalks. Car guesses drive direction based on what obstacles it sees, context & nav map. You can override on touchscreen.
— Elon Musk, the 2nd (@elonmusk) January 28, 2021
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.
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