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About that steering wheel… The feds have questions for Tesla about its refreshed Model S

Picture of Chris Teague

Chris Teague

The new Tesla steering wheel design has raised eyebrows.

When Tesla revealed its refreshed Model S sedan and Model X SUV earlier this week, among the highlights were a 17-inch infotainment screen on the center of the dashboard, improved interior appointments, and a fresh take on the typical steering wheel.

Reporting by Roadshow indicates that the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reached out to Tesla regarding the legality of its new yoke-like steering wheel.

Motor vehicles sold in the U.S. must adhere to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The NHTSA issues these standards to apply laws that are passed by Congress with the aim of the regulations being to prevent and reduce vehicle crashes. The government agency frequently updates these standards as new technology and safety innovations are made available to the industry.

[rebelmouse-image 25543539 photo_credit=”Photo courtesy of Tesla” caption=”A new steering wheel and infotainment screen dominated conversation surrounding the interior changes of the vehicle.” dam=”1″ pin_description=”” alt=”Tesla Model S interior refresh 2021″ expand=”1″]
A new steering wheel and infotainment screen dominated conversation surrounding the interior changes of the vehicle.

Photo courtesy of Tesla

The new steering wheel features a Formula One-like design. It has no stalks, which typically control lights, wiper movements, and turn signals. There are two rollers on the wheel for scrolling and various indicators that illuminate.

The NHTSA says that the best area for hands on a steering wheel are at the nine and three o’clock positions due in large part to airbag placement. Hand-over-hand steering, a movement that is frequently employed while traversing roundabouts and turning corners, would be particularly difficult with this new wheel.

Where the inquiry goes is anyone’s guess. Automotive industry experts have openly expressed doubts that the wheel will make it to market despite the fact that Tesla is already selling the vehicles on its website with deliveries slated to begin in March.

Industry experts are also raising concerns about Tesla’s lack of gear shifter in the freshened interior. Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, replied to a tweet describing how the car apparently doesn’t need a shifter, raising alarm regarding usability and data mining.

Expect more developments regarding this situation to come to light in the next month as the first delivery date promises near.

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