Tesla makes an airplane-style U-turn at the steering wheel

Tesla makes an airplane-style U-turn at the steering wheel

A conventional steering wheel has returned to the Tesla Model S and Model X – in Australia and overseas – after criticism of the aircraft-style half-wheel “yoke” introduced two years ago.

Tesla reintroduced a round steering wheel to its Model S sedan and Model X SUV electric cars – including for Australia – and backtracks the controversial switch to a half-wheel, aircraft-style “yoke” control two years ago.

The “yoke” system – an aircraft term for the main steering controls – was criticized by owners for being awkward to use at low speeds and lacking traditional turn signal, windshield wiper and gear selector levers.

Tesla has now reintroduced a traditional round steering wheel in its two electric car flagships, which is installed as standard on new orders.

However, the “Yoke” steering control is still available as a free option.

The move represents a backflip of comments from Tesla CEO Elon Musk in July 2021and rules out plans to reintroduce a traditional steering wheel into vehicles.

The change has been applied to all Tesla websites worldwide – including Australia, although there is still no date for when local deliveries of the updated Model S and Model X are set to begin two years after their US launch.

Owners of existing Model S and Model X vehicles in the United States that are equipped with the yoke can order and retrofit a traditional steering wheel for $700 through Tesla’s website.

While the shape of the steering wheel just presented is more conventional than the triple clamp, it still lacks stalks for turn signals, wipers and gear selector.

Instead, these systems are controlled via touch buttons on the spokes of the steering wheel – or, for the gear selector, via a selection of buttons on the center touchscreen, or clever software that uses the car’s sensors to automatically select “drive” or “reverse”. ‘.

Curiously, the return of a traditional steering wheel to the Model S and Model X appears to have been planned since the yoke’s introduction in January 2021 – after photos of a traditional steering wheel were found hidden on Tesla’s website.

However, the traditional steering wheel has only now come to light – the same images (revealed then by changing four characters in the Tesla website URL link) are now publicly available on Tesla’s order page.

Early 2022 Tesla Fan and Decoder Green (@atgreentheonly on Twitter) uncovered a manufacturer’s service software referencing an option to swap a vehicle between “Yoke” and “Round” steering wheel designs.

A similar design to the Tesla’s airplane-inspired steering control is slated for Australian showrooms in the luxury electric SUV Lexus RZ450e (pictured above) as a paid option as an alternative to a circular steering wheel.

While Tesla’s yoke is linked to a traditional steering system that requires multiple turns from lock to lock, Lexus uses steer-by-wire technology with an electronic connection between the driver and the front wheels.

This allows the Lexus system to vary the amount of steering input depending on vehicle speed – allowing for easy parking at low speeds without the need for hand-over-hand movements, while delivering precise responses at higher speeds.

At the time the Tesla system was unveiled, it was believed that the ‘yoke’ might not meet Australian motor vehicle regulations – but the endorsement of the Lexus design for Australia disproved that theory.

Tesla’s Australian website notes that the images and specs shown are for US models – so it’s unclear if the yoke will be available locally on future examples of the Model S sedan and Model X SUV, or if Tesla will instead offering the conventional steering wheel as such becomes the only choice.

Along with the return of the traditional steering wheel, Tesla fans have noticed other minor changes to the Model S and Model X: Red brake calipers have returned on the three-engine Plaid models.

In the meantime, the “T” emblems on the rear of both vehicles have been deleted, leaving only the “TESLA” writing underneath.

Alex Misoyannis

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017 when he launched his own website Redline. He worked for Drive in 2018 before joining CarAdvice in 2019 and becoming a regular journalist on the news team in 2020. Cars have played a central role in Alex’s life, from leafing through car magazines at a young age to growing up surrounded by performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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