Yoke steering wheel – a new normal?

Model S refresh interior

In last week’s Q4 2020 earnings call Tesla revealed its refreshed Model S & Model X. One of the most visible, maybe even controversial changes is the introduction of a Yoke steering wheel with haptic feedback switches for the windshield wiper, turn signals, horn, headlights & voice commands.

https://twitter.com/DriveTeslaca/status/1354588881786605570?s=20

A yoke steering wheel, or D-shaped steering wheel is the norm in most racing cars. A flat or cut off bottom provides more legroom for the driver, while the cut-off or flat top is for improved visibility.

F1 steering wheel

Race cars have a high steering ratio, which means unlike street cars it doesn’t take 2-3 rotations to make a full turn. And this may be one of the reasons why some enthusiasts are on the fence for the new steering wheel – “why fix something that isn’t broken?”

Round steering wheels have been the norm since first used on Panhard et Levassor cars more than one hundred years ago in 1898. There were some rumours last year Tesla wanted to transition to steer-by-wire. In 2019 Tesla also patented a more efficient power-assist steering system.

Maybe the yoke style is a result of that? In the patent filing Tesla also claimed the new design to be more efficient.

Probably the biggest hurdle that remains the legality of it. In many markets, it’s a regulatory issue. Maybe Elon & Tesla’s legal team have found a way around it or maybe Tesla will do what Audi has done with E-Tron’s camera mirrors.

What are your thoughts on the new steering design? Let us know in the comment section below.

Harsh Sharma is originally from India. He moved to Canada in 2020 and became a Tesla employee in Vancouver. He has previously won a national-level technical paper presentation competition on hybrid vehicles in India.