I wasn’t planning on talking about Tesla’s Model S refresh and their goofball new yoke-like steering wheel anymore, and that felt fine, just fine, to me. But then I happened to notice this headline on an InsideEVs story and it reminded me that, when it comes to Tesla, everything just works a bit differently. For instance, you get takes like this one that extrapolates huge and ridiculous technological advancements from what the rest of us just see as a dorky over-yet-under-thought steering wheel design. Let’s look at the headline in question:
Tesla’s Crazy Yoke Could Enable Flight Controls, Activate Rockets On Roadster
What? This is the kind of extrapolation that only Tesla really gets to enjoy. If pretty much any other major automaker designed a car with a silly steering wheel that would prove difficult to actually use, there would be plenty of articles excoriating the design and poking fun — much like how many approached the Tesla one — but that’s where it would have ended.
Nobody would see a steering wheel like this on a new GT-R or Mustang or 911 and then assume, hey, this dumb wheel must look so dumb because it’s really prepping drivers for a future vehicle that will, you know, fly when you yank on the wheel. Nobody would think this.
But, with Tesla fans, this is exactly how they think:
Tesla's new steering yoke appears to be analogous to an airplane steering yoke. But an airplane's yoke does not only control roll, but also pitch. Indeed, there's the potential for *five* extra axes (up-down, left-right, front-back, & two extra roll axes)
Why do I bring this up? pic.twitter.com/3aYbgVYZur
— Nafnlaus (@enn_nafnlaus) January 30, 2021
If you follow that thread you’ll find that while the tweeter isn’t claiming to have direct knowledge of any actual plans to have that steering yoke control a full six degrees of freedom for a future Tesla that could potentially drive and fly, but they are saying that the existence of such a steering wheel means it’s possible:
While I don't know that Tesla *plans* to do this, it is certainly *possible* that Tesla's experimentation with steering possibilities is the first step toward the introduction of steering systems that, when in Track Mode, give the driver additional axes of control freedom. pic.twitter.com/VjWDvz1GJQ
— Nafnlaus (@enn_nafnlaus) January 30, 2021
Now, I know many of you out there would say that this is because Elon Musk isn’t just in charge of Tesla, but also SpaceX, so it makes sense that people might assume some crossover of technologies could happen.
Of course, Chrysler, for example, actually built the damn rockets that took us to the freaking Moon, but if a Pacifica came out with a yoke-like steering wheel, I think the last thing anyone would assume is that Chrysler was planning a future rocket-hopping minivan.
To be fair, part of the reason this happens is that Elon himself likes to talk about crazy shit, which is fun, don’t get me wrong — that’s a big part of my job here, too.
His rockets-on-a-car thing even seemed similar to an idea I wrote about back in 2012, though it turned out he was going in a much, I think, sillier direction with car rockets: up.
Where my old 2012 idea was about the use of reaction-control rockets on a car for some potentially next-level handling, Elon was talking about a “hopping” car:
Not saying the next gen Roadster special upgrade package *will* definitely enable it to fly short hops, but maybe …
Certainly possible. Just a question of safety. Rocket tech applied to a car opens up revolutionary possibilities.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 19, 2017
…and while that might be great if we all lived and drove in a colossal Moon Patrol machine…
…on Earth, where the vast majority of cars are sold, a Tesla Roadster that can make rocket-propelled “short hops” is something that I can’t really see anyone actually wanting, even if it could be made safe and legal, both of which are very, very questionable.
Yet, here we are, and when Tesla shows a screwy steering yoke, this is where the talk ends up.
Everyone’s just speculating, of course, and that’s great. Wild speculation is fun! But, in this case, I also think this line of thinking is ridiculous, and I wouldn’t counsel any breath-holding for that yoke-wheel to be something that you can yank back on and leap eight feet into the air, for some reason, then come crashing down into the guard rail or whatever.
I’m sure all the other carmakers are envious of the odd and rarified position Tesla enjoys in the minds of its fans. It must be nice to have every move you make seen in the best possible light and even extrapolated beyond the boring, stupid confines of our reality.