Tesla is finally backing down on its controversial decision to only offer a yoke as a steering wheel in its flagship luxury cars. The automaker just rolled out the option for new car buyers to choose whether their new Model S or Model X is equipped with the yoke or a tried-and-true round steering wheel from the factory.
This option appeared on Tesla's website late Thursday, replacing the yoke as the default option when configuring a vehicle. The round steering wheel appears to be an updated version similar to the yoke with force-touch buttons and no column-mounted stalks. Swapping between the two options does not appear to affect price or delivery time.
Claims of safety issues aside, one of the most significant issues with Tesla's decision to offer only a yoke steering wheel is the lack of a variable steering ratio in its cars. Currently, Tesla vehicles are not equipped with steer-by-wire technology, meaning that low-speed maneuvers that typically require hand-over-hand driving techniques can be difficult for new drivers not yet acclimated to the yoke.
Despite criticism of Tesla, other manufacturers have since warmed up to the decision of a yoke in their own vehicles, but have focused on equipping them with steer-by-wire to address the shortcomings of Tesla's implementation. The upcoming Lexus RZ, for example, has a 150-degree lock-to-lock movement versus the Tesla Model S' nearly 800-degree movement.
In addition to new vehicles now being offered with a traditional round-style steering wheel, Tesla is also offering a retrofit package for owners who purchased a Model S or Model X with the yoke-style steering wheel. The steering wheel is being offered at $700 and includes installation. Interested buyers can begin placing their orders in March.
It's not immediately clear why Tesla has started offering a round wheel in the Model S and X with no recent provocation. Musk had previously said that there was no chance of a normal steering wheel being offered in place of the yoke, instead saying that the traditional round wheel was "boring" and that "[Full Self-Driving] in panoramic mode looks way better with a yoke."
Tesla has, however, had ongoing quality issues with its yoke wheels virtually disintegrating within several thousand miles. It is uncertain if the move to a round wheel by default is meant to improve the driving experience, reduce reports of quality issues, or is simply added to expand customer options on its vehicles, but with Tesla looking to reduce complexity in its upcoming refreshed models, it's difficult to picture Tesla offering the option simply to offer it.
Long live the round steering wheel.
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