In show cars and prototypes, it is a popular means of giving a vehicle a particularly futuristic interior: Instead of a normal steering wheel, a kind of control stick is installed, rectangular instead of round and designed so that you can only touch it properly on the sides. Tesla has also shown such a steering rectangle on roadsters and cybertrucks, and of course it looks particularly good with these modern electric cars. With the recently refreshed Model S and Model X, the pictures on the order pages will even come into series production. That led to mixed reactions – and the discovery that Tesla has already prepared a comparatively normal tax.
Mixed reactions to the steering rectangle
Tesla even dedicates a separate section on its website to the description of the new interior of the Model S and Model X – at least in the USA, the German pages were on Thursday morning after disappearing overnight not yet switched to the new web design. The tax yoke makes the car the best to drive in it yourself or to let yourself be driven, according to both models on the US pages. The second part of this formulation is to be understood as an allusion to Tesla’s plans for autonomous driving, after which neither a round nor a square steering wheel would be needed.
But as chic as it looks together with the otherwise upgraded interior, it is questionable whether the flat rectangle will really also be found in the Model S, which, according to CEO Musk, will be delivered from this February. On the one hand, it provoked some protests from Twitter commentators who were otherwise enthusiastic about Tesla. Some did not even like it optically, and clearly more pointed out that it was not very practical as long as you still have to drive your Model S or Model X (at least partially) yourself. In a quick poll by teslamag.de on Twitter, a slim majority initially found the Tesla Yoke either “nice, but not good” or “neither nice nor good”. In the end result after one hour, however, the option “well and good” could prevail with 46.2 percent (updated).
There is also the legal aspect. Taxes that are not completely round are already in place in a large number of other cars, but they are only mildly flattened and, with a little good will, would still deserve the name “wheel”. With a view to the new Tesla images and descriptions, the TNW blog cites a legal page, according to which the regulations in the otherwise relatively unregulated USA are particularly strict in this regard: Neither butterfly-style constructs (like now with Tesla with two side struts) joysticks are still eligible, it says there: The steering must be round and have at least 13 inches outside diameter.
A European tuning blog comes to the same conclusion, which claims to have dealt with the legal situation in Germany, Austria and Switzerland: Steering rectangles or connected double joysticks as in David Hasselhoff’s famous Auto KITT in Knight Rider are not permitted, because they would mean less feedback and control. Such a thing is only allowed while standing or away from public roads.
Tesla hides normal steering wheel
This information suggests that Tesla actually only allowed a small show effect with the pictures to refresh its Model S and Model X. An option to choose a different tax form was initially not publicly available on the US website, and the inside picture on the German only shows the new yoke. But resourceful observers discovered a prepared picture on the Tesla servers with the same cockpit innovations as on the order pages, only with a quite conventional steering wheel. In direct comparison, it looks a lot less modern overall – but at least you can use it on the street.