The Tesla Yoke Steering Wheel Has Made a Lot of People Really Unhappy

Tesla has upset a lot of people. I’m not just talking about the yoke. I’ll get there in a minute. Unfortunately for Tesla, the company is being investigated by the NHTSA for their “Full Self-Driving” system, as well as the legality of the Tesla yoke steering wheel.

The Tesla yoke wheel in the Model S Plaid
Tesla’s reinvention of the wheel | Tesla

And boy, are people unhappy about the yoke. It’s the only wheel you can get in the Tesla Model S Plaid, and that isn’t a good thing. Every review I’ve read harps on how the wheel is not only an unnecessary gimmick but an unsafe one as well.

Edmunds did not like the Tesla yoke steering wheel | Edmunds

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Let’s start with just the most basic aspect of all this. Right now, no one’s really sure if the Tesla yoke steering wheel is legal or not. Well, at least that’s the case in the United States. The NHSTA won’t say whether or not the new wheel is legit or just one big yoke (sorry, had to get that one in at least once). However, governments across Europe seem to have no issue with the Tesla yoke steering wheel.

Frankly, that shouldn’t be the case at all. Let’s ignore Tesla’s predictive drive selector doohickey system for a second. Sometimes, you have to turn a wheel more than 90 degrees to one side or another, like in a parking lot. The only reason that yoke shape works in race cars is because the steering rack is incredibly tight.

Tesla didn’t need to reinvent the wheel

The interior of a standard Tesla Model S, complete with a regular old circular wheel.
Tesla will let you have a regular wheel in the regular Model S | Patricia de Melo Moreira via Getty Images

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That means that in a Formula 1 steering wheel, for example, you can only turn the wheel one full rotation to either side before it won’t turn anymore. Even then, drivers really only use about 180 degrees of rotation during a race. Supposing the rack on the Tesla Models S Plaid was like that, it would in theory work much better. However, that would make the steering inordinately twitchy.

Edmunds tried to use the wheel in a tight parking lot to almost comical effect (you can see that in the video above). We’ve been trained our entire lives that wheels are circular, and you’re always reaching for a hoop that isn’t there with the Tesla yoke wheel. Not only is that annoying, it’s downright dangerous.

Elon Musk’s EV company looks to be headed for trouble

A black Tesla Model S Plaid in a plaid-patterned photo booth
I can’t argue with the Tesla Model S Plaid’s looks | Tesla

In an emergency situation, with your adrenaline pumping, you probably wouldn’t want to reach for a wheel that isn’t there to make a corrective move. And that’s the exact scenario the yoke invites. It’s something that doesn’t need to be there. A part of cars that didn’t need to be reinvented.

Musk continually pushes out these fanciful ideas he has no plan of delivering on (see: Tesla bot, Roadster, etc.), and the one time he does it’s something legitimately dangerous. Not only that, but the NHTSA’s recent string of investigations could spell bad news for the billionaire’s company. Frankly, it should. Musk cannot continue to push these ideas into the public eye where they’ll be misused (see: Full Self Driving) and expect to get away with it.