Beyond aspects such as design and technology, one has to wonder: it is safe or even legal? Even authorities are asking the question.
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In the U.S., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says it cannot determine at this time if the steering wheel meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, which are mostly based on crash results. It will reach out to Tesla in the next few days for more information.
U.S. laws are rather vague about steering wheel requirements, including their shape. Even the NHTSA is aware of that. In fact, the agency uses the term “steering control system” instead of “steering wheel.”
We searched through Transport Canada documents and couldn’t find anything specifically related to the design of a steering wheel for motor vehicles.
It seems like there’s nothing to prevent automakers such as Tesla from pushing the limits in that area. Incidentally, it’s the first time we are seeing a steering yoke in a production vehicle. With all those futuristic concepts unveiled in the past two decades and self-driving cars coming in a few years, it was bound to happen at some point, right?
A ruling by the NHTSA will likely be announced in the next few months. In the meantime, other images of the updated Model S and Model X show a more conventional steering wheel, so it appears Tesla and Elon Musk once again have more than one trick up their sleeves.