Has the student become the master?
The rectangular yoke replaces a conventional round steering wheel. (Tesla)
The rectangular interface is being incorporated into Tesla’s latest models to offer an unobstructed view of the instrument cluster, according to Musk, and hearkens the brand’s future autonomous driving capability. However, videos have shown it can be awkward to use in situations that involve turning it more than 180 degrees, as when negotiating tight turns and parallel parking.
Nevertheless, Musk said it passed his “acid test” of using it for two weeks, after which he didn’t want to go back to a circular wheel.
An image of a Model S with a round wheel briefly appeared on Tesla’s website, but the automaker has not confirmed if it will ever be an available option. (Tesla)
One Twitter follower asked, “would you say it’s true for most city and highway driving… But, wheel is sharper/better if you live/commute on twisty mountain roads?”
Musk’s answer was, “variable gain (steer by wire) yoke would be ideal …”
This design would eliminate the mechanical steering column and turn the yoke into more of a remote control for an electrically-powered steering rack, which would allow the steering ratio to be adjusted depending on the situation. As such, it could be programmed so that drivers never need to turn the yoke far enough to require them to remove their hands.
The thing is, this isn’t a new idea. In fact, you’ll soon be able to buy a car with this exact setup, just not from Tesla.
The Toyota bZ4X will be offered with an optional yoke-style interface that uses steer-by-wire technology. (Toyota)
Toyota this year unveiled its new bZ4X electric SUV, which will be offered with either a traditional steering wheel or an optional yoke equipped with steer-by-wire that only needs to be turned a maximum of 150 degrees from side to side.
It hasn’t confirmed its availability in the U.S. version of the bZ4X, but will be available in Japan next year.
The Tesla Cybertruck prototype featured a yoke when it was unveiled in 2019. (Tesla)
Musk said a yoke would definitely be used in the upcoming Cybertruck, which he said “is intentionally an insane technology bandwagon.”
In the meantime, Infiniti already sells several models in the U.S. with steer-by-wire and variable ratio steering, albeit with a round wheel and a backup mechanical steering column in case the electronic system fails.