Tesla’s half-wheel raised eyebrows from fans and regulators
NHTSA investigating if wheel passes muster
Not sure if that Tesla yoke-style half a steering wheel that the automaker showed off in its latest Model S updates last week was actually legal for use in a car? Well, neither are regulators, according to a new report, who may have been as surprised to see it as we were.
“At this time, NHTSA cannot determine if the steering wheel meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Road & Track. “We will be reaching out to the automaker for more information.”
We’ve seen strange steering controls in concept cars for decades, and purpose-built racing cars, especially open-wheel cars, have steering wheels designed to be gripped only in two places, but there are some things that those cars don’t need to worry about. Things like production-car steering racks (with more than the half a turn from lock-to-lock race cars offer) and having to parallel park.
While it wouldn’t be out of character for Tesla to introduce features that are more show than go, like playing video games in your Tesla Model S, something like this seems a step to far even for them. Surprisingly, the shockingly detailed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) doesn’t seem to call out that a steering wheel needs to be an actual wheel, there are other parts of the regulations that may apply to the steering wheel.
Even if the NHTSA decides that yes, this steering wheel passes the test, we imagine that a conventional wheel will be available.