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Tesla’s ‘Knight Rider’ Steering Yoke Is Getting Panned in Early Reviews (thedrive.com)
66 points by samizdis 38 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 62 comments

The Yoke-style steering wheel doesn’t make any sense on a car with a normal steering ratio.

They’re designed for small race cars with fast steering ratios that never have to make small, tight turns like a U-turn or a parking maneuver. If you almost never need to turn the wheel more than 90 degrees, you don’t need the top and bottom of the wheel. That’s not the case on a daily driven street car.

Even the professional race car driver who reviewed the car insisted that the Yoke be switched back to a normal wheel so he could actually drive it properly on track.

This feels like the industrial design team fell in love with the looks and marketing aspects of the yoke wheel and ignored the total lack of practicality.

Regardless of steering ratio they're designed around people who can be expected to want to hold the steering wheel a certain way for a certain task.

Normal people doing normal driving want to grab the top, bottom, etc. depending on what's most comfortable and natural in the moment.

Same with indicator stalks - not all road junctions are at 90 degrees - I'd love to see a video of activating a yoke-mounted turn signal with it turned. I don't want to do trig just to find the turn signal and then have right and left switched around because the yoke is upside down.

True, a lot of fun with signaling right while leaving roundabouts.

Oh wait, nobody does that anyway

Not sure why you're getting the down votes but here, have an up vote :)

Immagine this thing autoparking. A round wheel spinning has no edges to bump or catch on things. This yoke makes hard to judge whether your knees are enough away from it.

When my friend was telling me how stupid the yoke wheel is, I told him, and was just assuming that Tesla will just implement dynamic steering and it will be pretty cool.

Now what I think is that Elon may not have listened to his engineers, but at least he's really good at listening to sales numbers.

Makes sense if you care about marketing over actual usability.


Well, Elon gave us 50s style rockets. And Spaceballs flame throwers. So why not KITT?

Exactly. Theyre dummies

So many auto manufacturers have already tried out yoke steering wheels and quickly pulled them after they found the same conclusions. It's cute to pull them out as a retro thing, but it doesn't really solve why they were retro in the first place - namely they were abandoned because users hated them.

While I admire Tesla's commitment to bucking constraints, I am reminded of that Choose Boring Technology presentation: http://boringtechnology.club/.

To be fair, the yoke is being offered on their six figure flagship. It's a gimmick, but it's being deployed precisely where you'd expect to see a gimmick.

Do recognize that most of the people "panning" these things aren't the target market anyway. The cars remain sold out for six months. Tesla seems to be doing fine, gimmicks or no. They don't hit with every swing, but they're batting well enough.

And while I don't know that I would have chosen one personally, I've watched the videos and... is this really so bad? It looks fine. As a reasonably new Tesla driver, compared to getting used to the "single pedal driving" paradigm this seems like no big deal to me.

It's definitely a fun gimmick. And they definitely need gimmicks to create reasons to price discriminate so wildly on the same platform. It's too bad Musk apologists need to come out of the woodwork to defend it's legitimacy as an idea.

I do get a sense though that Tesla suffers from chasing down too many gimmicky ideas: giant central consoles, their weird HVAC tech, gullwing doors, Cybertruck, some really bad manufacturing concepts.

Also "no-compromise electric car", "DC fast charging", "supercharger network", "self driving"[1], "fastest production cars ever", yada yada. Y'know, gimmicks.

Like I said, they don't hit it out of the park on every swing, but they're still the best slugger in the game. And frankly it isn't even close.

[1] Which despite what all the haters say is still trivially the most capable autonomy system available to the consumer anywhere, with no competitors even close. Yeah, yeah, type all you want but this thing is fun as hell and I was happy to pay $10k to be part of the original generation of these things.

One of my favorite engineering quotes: "the ocean designs boats."

Circular steering wheels are popular for the same reason rockets are long and tall or boats are shaped like... boats.

Why on earth did they not implement variable steering ratio? The article mentions Audi, BMW, Ford already having that. But it's not just that they have it now, I had that two cars ago in a 2009 model...

Musk tweeting "Will aim for that in a few years." translates to maybe a 10% chance of it ever happening. See the list here: elonsbrokenpromises.com

How this would even work without drive-by-wire?

BMW uses a system with gears that adjusts the steering ratio mechanically, not disconnecting the steeringwheel from the wheels. The "failed" mode of the system just puts it back to the base non-variable ratio. Don't know exactly how it works, but it drives very very intuitively. Only time you notice is if you step in another car and realise parking takes more effort.

Edit: According to Wikipedia they've done so since the 2003 model 5-series already and this has a description on how it's done: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_steering

Because it's the absolute death of sportiness feelings

Not at all. What you mean is variable power steering, that can kill response if not setup perfectly.

Variable ratio steering also means configurable steering ratio. So a very quick turn at parking speed and in reverse while you can select the perfect ratio for handling at higher speeds.

>Variable ratio steering also means configurable steering ratio.

No, it doesn't if you do it the typical way with a rack or steering gear that has teeth of inconsistent spacing (and some tricky geometry to make that not destroy itself).

The teeth are cut how they are cut and there is no changing that without swapping parts.

See here how it's done, even integrated with stability control to counter steer in some situations instead of using the brakes: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_steering

There are multiple ways to do variable ratio. Realistically Tesla is going to go with the cheaper "inconsistent gear pitch" design rather than the use electronics to hold ore move some object in your gear system to change the ratio" design. Look at how the design the rest of their car.

I have to agree with that :) they loudly claim to be the "best selling luxury sedan" but really make more of a mid range cheap car.

You could argue the same thing about having no engine noise or having a car that weighs two tons.

I don't think people are buying teslas for the steering feel.

This isn't the Tesla suv

This is perhaps the most fun, physical manifestation of "market disruption" I've seen. Literally reinventing the wheel, badly.

It appears that the turn signal switch is to the left of the horn, on the face of the yolk, instead of on the steering column (like every other car I have driven).

I much prefer the turn signals in a fixed location that is mind mapped so I never have to guess their relative position.

And the horn is a capacitive "button" instead of a hardware button. So, it's really easy to honk when trying to keep your hands on the silly partial steering wheel.

Just need to add a suicide knob, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brodie_knob

Citroen went one step further on the protoype model SM. They did away with the steering wheel altogether and wanted to use a joystick like contraption in the center. After crashing the prototype they added a steering wheel. This is the reason that that vehicle tends to behave terribly when you make a quick course correction at highway speeds: the steering is non-progessive and you'll get way more boost than you expect. That takes some getting used to. One of the star football players in NL almost lost his life in the Schiphol tunnel that way. Details matter, and settled user interfaces should not change unless you have an extremely good reason.

Hah! Thank you for posting that I wasn't aware of that it looks quite similar to the photo I've seen of the prototype SM. I used to be hip-deep in all things Citroen, the last one I had was a C5 about a decade ago, since then mostly other brands.

It's strange that regulations in the US prohibit even things like aspherical/convex mirrors for safety reasons (the reflected image is deformed), or active headlights but deforming the steering wheel and making it less intuitive to control in emergency situations for the average driver is accepted.

The wheel not only has less physical room for the drivers to place their hands, it also presents one missing side and a constantly changing grip angle depending on the position of the wheel, requiring a lot of shuffling of hand.

In Europe there's also no prescription for the shape of the steering wheel so one could sell a car with a trackpad for steering.

It's a whitelisting problem. Yokes have been whitelisted for a while and that's not been revisited (because almost nobody installs them on street cars).

Active headlights have not been whitelisted. (And boy is the NHTSA taking its sweat time doing that!)

If it looks stupid but it works, it isn't stupid.

If it looks stupid and it doesn't work, it's stupid.

One way to motivate yourself to make self driving cars is to make your steering wheel less usable, I guess.

I guess the yoke might work on American highways, and in parking lots your speed is low enough for a "bad" steering wheel to work well enough. But on the winding shit roads in Norway, this is probably going to be a really sad solution.

FWIW, America also has lots of winding shit roads. I want to see a video of this Tesla navigating Lombard street in SFO.

America is a big country so there has to be some bad roads. But if we compare with Norway by percentage, or if you look at bad roads that are major or important roads, it is no contest.

Even the main three roads between the capitol (Oslo) and the second largest city (Bergen). Has parts that will give Lombard street a run for it's money.

I would love to see a Tesla with the yoke try to do Trollstigen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trollstigen), that I'm sure would be hilarious.

Yes, I agree by percentage. But there are certainly many mountainous areas in the US with winding and poorly maintained roads.

The new AMG Project One has something similar. Not Yoke, more F1 style wheel [0]

So is the new Lotus Evija [1]

[0] https://autonxt.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/autocontentex...

[1] https://media.lotuscars.com/theme/img/cms/models/evija/WKvl9...

Aren't they illegal in several states? Sadly it seems the yoke is legal in Europe. Madness.

Yokes are generally stupid for street vehicles. Why make something illegal if nobody does it?

It's pretty clear that they wanted improved visibility to the display behind the wheel.

Its pretty clear it was purely for aesthetics and wow factor.

Its a solution to a non-existent problem - you can see the instrument cluster through the gap between the hub and upper rim of the wheel and tilt adjustment caters for different height people.

Peugeot's approach to this is to make the steering wheel compact, give it a flatter top and raise the instrument cluster.


This works in motorsports because on the circuit you don't need to use a large turn radius - it was stupid idea to put it in a road car for some childhood fetish.

The article's author has been dying to use this pun "You know what they say about reinventing the wheel—it's hardly ever a good idea." :-)

At the very least there'll be strong after market demand for a proper steering wheel.

The moment I saw this I thought it’d be impractical. Pretty moronic design choice IMO.

Huh, this does look uncomfortable. But you know what, everyone who instantly knows this is a bad idea seems to have also instantly known that the Tesla touchscreen is a bad idea and everyone I know who owns a Tesla loves it.

Yeah, there's an outrageously strong fanboy/hater effect with everything to do with Tesla. It can be extraordinarily hard to tell when they've actually made a mistake against the cacophony of people who are merely screaming (again) about how terrible it is that they've done something DIFFERENT.

That said, as a Model Y owner: this wheel wouldn't have been my choice. Seems like the only real advantage is somewhat better visibility to the stuff on the dash and the driver screen (which the Y doesn't even have). We'll see if it catches on, if not they'll probably just back it out and offer a wheel as a service upgrade or something.

Haha, some Tesla owners I know have complained about the touch screen. It's not a big enough problem for them to get rid of the car, though.

I still can't beleive this made it all the way to public review. Like at no point did any of the Tesla designers, engineers, QA folks test this internally and say this is too stupid to work?

You don't say no to Elon. He's well known for insta-firing people that question his decisions that he's really vested into. Yoke sounds like 100% his decision - makes car look cool.

This certainly is a case of those people being vetoed. The issues with yokes are well known and even many customers would have complained

Elon had a track record of doing this at Tesla. Gullwing doors, pop out door handles, etc. But this I guess is the tax of innovating when most other power players are unwilling naysayers, some efforts are major flops.

Tesla pretty much always gets 'panned' in early reviews. I'll reserve judgement until I can try it myself.

It's not that they don't make mistakes (the Model X and its doors were not great), but I don't trust the press on anything Tesla related - even less so now that they view Musk as a political enemy.

Remember the Model S on the pickup truck because the NYT writer drove around in circles intentionally to kill it and then lied about it for the story? When everyone is driving EVs within the next ten years it'll be even more obvious than today how fabricated that was.

People still complain about Tesla's far superior (imo) UI/software interface, despite its market success. Reviews are not a great indicator of general sentiment or truth.

I recall folks vigorously questioning the thinking behind the large center screen subsuming many physical gauges and buttons in the Model 3. It was visually unusual and rather odd looking. Speculations included safety concerns about visual focus being shifted more often or more potential distractions navigating screens to adjust temperature, change music or pass gas.

In the end, the 3 and Y are gaining market share quickly, and those concerns did not spell the demise of the vehicle.

This seems like a similar design choice, different in more ways than just visual impact. I expect there will be the same two camps: Those who own the car and say it's easy to get used to, and, those who don't own the car and can't imagine why anyone would choose a yoke.

In my view, ok, it's different, but I'm going to withhold judgement until I've put a few hundred miles on one.

BTW, I am sure that part of Tesla's thinking is going to be that they expect humans to steer the car much less over the coming decade. Their goal has been to make the steering wheel superfluous for quite some time.

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