Toyota fixes Tesla’s ‘yoke’ steering wheel in its first electric SUV with steer-by-wire system


Toyota has unveiled a steering wheel similar to Tesla’s “yoke” steering wheel in its first electric SUV, but the automaker has introduced an important feature that fixes the main problem of the Tesla yoke.

When Tesla unveiled the new Model S with the “yoke” butterfly steering wheel, it was controversial.

Some were worried about the actual shape of the wheel being problematic, and others about the lack of drive stalk to choose the drive mode.

As for the former, we thought that the automaker wouldn’t risk bringing the controversial yoke steering wheel to market without a non-linear steering curve enabled by a steer-by-wire system.

Especially knowing that Tesla has been developing a steer-by-wire system.

However, as Tesla started deliveries of the new Model S Plaid last month, we were surprised to see that the wheel had a normal 14.0:1 steering ratio, and it’s proving to be impractical at lower speeds.

CEO Elon Musk later confirmed that Tesla is indeed working on progressive steering, but he said that it’s still years away.

Today, Toyota unveiled its first electric car, the bZ4X, and surprisingly, it also featured a steering wheel with a different shape:

Like Tesla, Toyota noted that the biggest advantage was better visibility.

However, unlike Tesla, Toyota has implemented a drive-by-wire system that enables it to adjust the steering for low-speed situations and sharp turns.

The automaker listed all the advantages of its new steer-by-wire system:

  • Lock-to-lock is set at around 150 degrees, eliminating the need to change grips when steering, greatly reducing the burden on the driver for U-turn, garage parking, and on winding roads.
  • The steering feeling is improved through independently controlling the steering torque that the driver feels and the steering angle of the tires. Steering characteristics can be changed with drive mode select.
  • Blocks unnecessary vibrations from tires and only transmits necessary vibrations such as road information. System controls tire movement to ensure vehicle stability when driving on uneven surfaces or when Lane Tracing Assist is activated.
  • One-motion grip provides more legroom, improving driving position freedom and ease of entry and exit.

The new system will launch in the bZ4X next year.

Electrek’s Take

Look, I am not a fan of Toyota and its heel-dragging on battery-electric vehicles for years. I’ve even lobbied against Toyota at times.

But I have to admit that Toyota did it right here. The steer-by-wire system is going to eliminate much of the issues at lower speeds.

It also has stalks, but I guess that’s more of a preference thing, while the yoke’s low-speed issues are undeniable.

Obviously Tesla is still light years ahead of Toyota when it comes to electrification, but it’s good to have little things like this that raise the bar.

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