Why Tesla’s impractical butterfly steering wheel seemingly will not make it into manufacturing

As part of its quarterly earnings call yesterday, EV maker Tesla showed renderings of an upcoming update to the Model S 2021. The piece that gets everyone talking is this Butterfly, or as others call it, the Knight riderStyle steering wheel.

But I have bad news. This steering wheel will probably not make it into the production model. We are sorry.

Image Credit: Tesla The refreshed Tesla Model S features a butterfly steering wheel, which is likely illegal.

Yes, it’s super cool – and you could ride as if you were there Knight Rider or something – but steering wheels have to be complete, round and not missing any bits.

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According to the legal source HG.org, cars “can’t have a butterfly-shaped steering wheel or a fighter jet like a joystick. Instead, a vehicle must have a circular wheel with an outside diameter of at least 13 inches. “

It is possible to get exemptions from the rule, but these are usually only granted for one-off special-purpose vehicles, not series cars.

That’s a good thing because, frankly, steering wheels like this are not useful in the real world. They prevent the driver from shuffling the wheel through their hands when it turns to full lock. A butterfly steering wheel means you have to cross your arms when making big turns, which is just awkward and unsafe.

The renderings also seem to show that Tesla has done away with its gear selector lever that used to sit on the steering column. Instead, the company says it will move all of those buttons and the indicator and wiper levers to the steering wheel, bringing all of the controls to the driver’s fingertips.

Tesla is far from being the first to promise a cool looking steering wheel. As this article from the Tuning Blog shows, auto companies love to outfit concept cars with radically designed handlebars to grab attention, and aftermarket modders love them for their unique looks.

The new Model S is unlikely to come with the butterfly steering wheel, but nothing prevents you from starting your own business.

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Published on January 28, 2021 – 08:20 UTC

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