My Car Quest

June 12, 2024

Do We Need a Yoke Instead of a Steering Wheel?

Or do we want a yoke?

by Wallace Wyss –

I am in the throes of writing a book on Elon Musk tentatively entitled How Tesla killed Detroit. One thing I am going to say in the book is that Elon Musk does just about whatever he wants to do
The latest is switching to a yoke type (not full circle) steering wheel in the Model S and Y. I recently documented that in a 1965 Corvette prototype, the Mako Shark, GM proposed a yoke type wheel but wouldn’t think of putting it into production. I mean: is it legal?

Tesla Yoke

Car and Driver, on their website last year, in an article by by Elana Scherr published JUL 27, 2021 said it is, kinda/sorta. They quote the NHTSA: “Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that their vehicles meet all NHTSA safety standards and must certify the compliance of their vehicles. NHTSA’s standards do not prohibit non-circular steering controls, but manufacturers must ensure the steering control meets all requirements for occupant impact protection.” (this next part C & D:) “So, basically, if the steering control won’t impale the occupants or leave the vehicle and impale pedestrians, NHTSA doesn’t care what shape it is. Good news for Tesla, bad news if you were hoping to sell a spiked dog-collar version.”

One disadvantage is if you have to do several turns on the wheel, how do you keep your hand on the high part of the wheel if there is no high part? Maybe Tesla will be able to prove that with their steering that a full wheel isn’t needed. I know Consumer Reports frowns on it, but hey, they have no standing on regs.

I predict that, just to keep the pressure on slow Detroit, next Tesla will eliminate outside rear view mirrors. Of course they are presently required. But what if they can prove in court that cutting out the mirrors and replacing them with in-dash TV screens earns a point in Cd, allowing the car to get better mileage? And who amongst us is against better mileage? And you have to admit outside rear view mirrors get knocked off on occasion. Two less parts to worry about. Speed up the assembly line and all that.

So expect Tesla to keep pushing the envelope. I can understand Musk’s impatience with the slow pace of change in U.S. regulations. I remember back in the Sixties when all American cars had sealed beam headlights so if you tried to run Lucas or Marchal or Cibie or some such in headlights, you were branded an outlaw. Finally only recently were headlamps “liberated” and all shapes and styles and intensities are allowed in the US (Still, BMW had one helluva battle getting adaptive headlights US legal).

Tesla Yoke

Part of my book’s theme is that one reason for Elon Musk’s success is that he doesn’t pay never no mind to the way things have always been with America’s legacy automakers. That’s why they got the name “legacy” as “in the past.” defines legacy as “of or relating to old or outdated computer hardware, software, or data that, while still functional, does not work well with up-to-date systems.”

We’ll see how the yoke goes over…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is writing a book tentatively entitled How Tesla Killed Detroit. He is looking for a publisher. He can be reached by publishers at


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Do We Need a Yoke Instead of a Steering Wheel?
Article Name
Do We Need a Yoke Instead of a Steering Wheel?
So expect Tesla to keep pushing the envelope. I can understand Elon Musk's impatience with the slow pace of change in U.S. regulations.


  1. Wes Stewart says

    Well, if it cuts down on people using the “hold the wheel at one o’clock with your left hand” driving position, I’m all for it.

    • phil alvirez says

      i dont understand why any1 could do that. what i recall race drivers did was 10 past 10. in other words, left at 10, right at 2 o’clock. both hands on.
      this way when you had to change gears (yes, there were no automatic transmissions on those days), you held the wheel with your left-you didnt have to move it) when changing gears with the right.
      i learned that from a book written by Piero Tarufi, world champion, entitled ‘technical driving sports cars’

  2. I do not see the point of this change to the driver interface.

    If the car cannot be turned all the way in either direction without removing the hands then it could be dangerous.

    On the other hand it eliminates the risk of banging the drivers chin (or mouth) into the top of the steering wheel in case of an aggressive stop.

  3. Steve Lyman says

    With level 5 autonomy on the horizon, you won’t get a yoke. You get to enjoy the view.

    • if you get into a car just to carry you somewhere, it will be your goal.
      but for those who, like me, driving is a pleasure, and using the car to carry me somewhere is an excuse, just watching the car driving by itself is like hiring a man to have fun with your girl and watching them.
      so it depends on your goals.

  4. wallace wyss says

    Level 5 is the dream Elon keeps holding out. If it is cleared for public use, he will be in the best position to market it soon but I still say there’s some legal hurdles.I think the way he will maybe the way is to get some other country to approve it and when we see the accident rate fall drastically in a Tesla heavy down, he can point that it is safer than those pesky humans at the wheel

  5. phil alvirez says,with%20a%20single%20hand%20safely.
    we have been using it from the early years for turning fast so it means if we want the steering whatever to be of any other shape than round this is the same old solution.

    • phil alvirez says

      and if i could legally replace the round steering wheel with 1 resembling the 1 in the picture i would do it right now.
      and with the knob too of course.

  6. phil alvirez says

    the knob would be the solution-and longer upper arms where to fit it so it would be at about 10:00 to 11:00 o’clock.
    just above the place where we locate our left hand. and could be retractable (folding to the front).
    this solves the problem of turning more than 180 degrees. but you need the knob.
    then i learned that the knob is illegal where i live, and maybe in other places too. that kills the yoke for me.
    end of the story-at least for me.

  7. phil alvirez says

    the yoke i think of is very much like this, just with the “horns” extended up enough for the knob to be attached:
    we need the knob for turning beyond 180 degrees, otherwise the yoke does not work.
    and we must drive with our hands above the centerline of the yoke, not under as seems the idea for the original.

  8. phil alvirez says

    and of course the center must match the car (holes distance, whatever) or be solid so this can be drilled to match

  9. Just getting around to putting in my two cents worth on the Tesla yoke-type steering “device “…
    I got my driver’s license back in 1964 and quickly installed what we called a “suicide knob” onto the steering wheel of my mother’s 1963 metallic baby blue Chevy Impala convertible with a white top. (Where are you now…Sigh!)
    For your younger readers it was clamped to the wheel at about the ten o’clock position, was easily clutched in your hand and rotated independent of the clamp that held it to the wheel. It enabled 100% one-handed driving and parking. Best of all, in those days of bench-style front seats and no shoulder belts, it enabled me to put my right arm around the neck and shoulders of my girlfriend who sat snug next to me (thigh-to-thigh, hip-to-hip) in the center seat.
    Perhaps Tesla can overcome criticism of their yoke by offering a Tesla-branded knob such as I’ve described above.
    Alas, I don’t hold out any hope for a Tesla with a front bench seat!
    P.S. I was once stopped by a policeman and issued a citation for “One-Arm-Driving”! It was worth it.

  10. phil alvirez says

    the yoke stile is more functional, and allows you to drive with 1 hand. so, even if you dont drive an automatic (as more and more do now), all cars have power steering, and is so light , that there is no need to use both. but with the yoke alone is hard to do tight turns, and especially when parking, so the knob is the solution. only needs stretching the upper left or right arm of the yoke a little bit (depending how much you relay on your left or right hand) so there is enough room for the knob to be installed (if you drive manual, it is the left side where you would install the knob). now, in some places the knob is illegal, so somebody has to do his job solving it. .
    but at the end of the day, it makes driving more comfortable.
    perhaps this is just a transitory device, and eventually all of this will be superseded by a joystick, as the fighter pilots do.
    i recall mercedes having a concept car with it (and maybe more). i wouldnt mind having 1 like it!

  11. phil alvirez says

    and why not seats in the center?

  12. when looking at the pic, i wonder why in the old cars we fitted 3 comfortably on each bench seat, and on this pic even if they are slanted still look tight? arent the cars about same width?

  13. back to the yoke:
    in the fantasy car you do everything with the yoke, but that transition may be way too difficult to achieve.
    why not just have the yoke for steering and still keep the accelerator and brake pedals, so you dont get it all mixed-up.
    just think about it.

  14. i mean, the joystick

  15. so, picture yourself sitting there with your left arm resting on the door arm support doing nothing. your left foot doing nothing as usual; your right foot doing the same as before (accelerator or brake), and your right arm resting on the padded console steering. it may be just a vertical rod, or a square yoke where your hand grabs the frame on the bottom edge or the left edge. your choice. anyway, you have a precise sense of steering (it is sort of the same used in lightplanes and fighters). but, how would it feel? more relaxed? or rather prefer having both hands on the wheel? more in control? that is the question. and that is what will decide the future of all this quest. what the people will feel: more confident or comfortable dealing with.

  16. wallace wyss says

    What surprises me is the way Tesla will add something to a production car that you think would have to have prior government approval. Next they’ll probably eliminate rear view mirrors to get better mileage and say the interior camera screens will cover the rea view. But that’s their style–push the envelope.

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