Saturday, February 24

The steering wheels of the future will be, above all, rare: why the industry is experimenting with them so much


When many have not yet gotten used to the peculiar design of the Peugeot i-Cockpit, the yoke shuttlecocks They seem to be gaining ground. What kind of flyers are we talking about? Those aviation style that can already be seen in the Tesla Model S Plaid and that will soon reach new models.


No. Clear and concise. This was Elon Musk’s response to a user who asked him on Twitter if the new Tesla Model S Plaid could be ordered without the new yoke steering wheel. This new steering wheel has been included in the top-of-the-range version of Tesla models and has raised all kinds of opinions in its wake.

Some drivers defend it with the same arguments that Elon Musk has given so far. With this type of steering wheel, flattened and without a top rim, drivers can better see the screen in front of their eyes, with better monitoring of the values ​​displayed there or, for example, of the Autopilot.

However, many others have questioned the proper functioning of the system. Consumer Reports, the American association for the defense of drivers, has made it clear that their experience has not been a good one. They highlight the difficulties in maneuvering, the complications for, for example, activating the turn signal with the steering wheel turned, or some ghost touches of the button that activates the horn.

Better with a ring

Maneuvering with this type of flyers is one of the recurring debates on the Internet. Some say that they have had no problem adapting to not having a top ring. On the contrary, in YouTube videos we can see how some drivers grab an “invisible steering wheel” during turns, betraying their muscle memory.

When we stroll through a city or maneuver in a parking lot, it is essential to turn the steering wheel completely. This causes some drivers to have trouble making these types of turns. In fact, given the impossibility of mounting a traditional steering wheel on the Tesla Model S Plaid, there are those who carry out small transformations to include a top ring.

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Tesla Model S 2021 1600 07

To be as effective as possible, these wheels must take advantage of variable gearing. Until now, vehicles with a steering gear ratio have been widespread. To require less effort from the driver, during low-speed maneuvers the steering is softened, making it easier to turn the steering wheel. At high speed, the steering stiffens to make it more precise when cornering.

In this case, in addition to the steering being more or less soft during manoeuvres, it must also be direct. Therefore, this type of steering wheel requires that in low-speed maneuvers, the direction is much more direct and that with the same turn of the steering wheel, the wheels open at a greater angle at low speed than at high speed. Thus, the number of times in which we will miss the upper ring is reduced. This is something that does not happen in the case of Tesla.

It’s not the only one

The Tesla Model S Plaid is not the only vehicle with such a distinctive steering wheel. When the new Toyota bZ4X was presented, the brand’s first electric, it was already seen with a steering wheel with similar characteristics. Dubbed “One Motion Grip”, Toyota’s steering wheel is based on the same features: two spokes and no top rim. Although its greater width gives the feeling that it can be gripped more comfortably.

The same happens with the steering wheel of the recently introduced Lexus RX 450e, the electric sports car will also include its version of the One Motion Grip, although belonging to Lexus, it gives the feeling that this steering wheel will have a more premium finish. For now, the Toyota will only be sold in China with this steering wheel, while the Lexus says it will be available in markets where it is legal to mount it.

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To reassure drivers, Japanese brands ensure that their steering wheels will have a maximum turning radius of 150 degrees, 75 degrees for each side. This should reduce the chances we miss the top rim, with very direct steering at low speed. That is to say, the main inconvenience attributed to the Tesla Model S Plaid is solved, but, if you are one of those who like an “informative” address, I am afraid that any of these two cars are not for you either.

And yes, they are legal

Since the Tesla yoke-type steering wheel was presented, many have wondered if these types of devices are legal on European soil. And the answer was not long in coming: yes, they are.

In response to El Español, Industry has already made it clear that flyers, as such, are not approved. Although they did highlight that, as one more element of the front of the vehicle and the steering system, “the design of the steering wheel can have an impact on compliance with some regulations.

These peculiarities, however, seem to have more to do with the driver’s own safety in the event of an impact or that the steering wheel fulfills its role mechanically than with the usability of this type of steering wheel. In fact, in the United Kingdom, Holland and Sweden they have offered very similar answers to Industry: it is not the steering wheel that is approved in Europe, it is the entire steering system as a whole.

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we want them flattened

Although it is not difficult to find the detractors of this type of steering wheel, it is evident that flattened steering wheels have become popular over the years.

A few years ago they became popular among the sportier models of each brand. Round ruffles but cut in the lower area. Little by little they spread among the most popular vehicles, ensuring that this small lower cut made it easier to enter and exit the vehicle while also facilitating its position.

But in this context, Peugeot broke all the molds with its i-Cockpit, an interior configuration in which the steering wheel was clearly flattened at the bottom and top. This makes it easier to read the instrument panel, which is also located a little higher than normal.

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Even more striking is the steering wheel of the new BMW iX, with a distinctly hexagonal design. Personally, on the occasions that I have come across steering wheels where these flattenings are so marked, I have missed a round, pure and hard steering wheel, especially in urban maneuvers or in parking lots. Very well they will have to work at Toyota and Lexus to convince drivers that, in addition, they will have to adapt to a new way of driving in the urban environment.

And let’s not forget either that, although it seems that they have not evolved, steering wheels have always been one more reason for designers to develop all their ingenuity. To show the steering wheels of the Citroën DS, the Aston Martin Lagonda or the recent Byton M-Bite Chinese SUV, with a touch screen inside the steering wheel rim.



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