Matthew BeedhamEditor, SHIFT by TNW
Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls. Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls.
As part of its quarterly earnings call yesterday, EV maker Tesla showed off renderings of an upcoming 2021 Model S refresh. The piece that’s got everyone talking is its butterfly, or as others call it, the Knight Rider-style steering wheel.
But I have some bad news. That steering wheel probably won’t make it in to the production model. Sorry.
Yeah, it’s super cool — and you’d be able to drive along pretending you’re in Knight Rider or something — but steering wheels have to be complete, round, and not have any bits missing.
According to legal resource HG.org, cars “cannot have a ‘butterfly’ shaped steering wheel or a fighter jet like joystick. Instead, a vehicle must have a circular wheel at least 13 inches along its outside diameter.”
It is possible to get exemptions from the rule, but these are usually only granted to specialist one-off vehicles, not mass produced consumer cars.
That’s a good thing, because honestly steering wheels like this aren’t useful in the real world. They prevent the driver from shuffling the wheel through their hands as they turn to full lock. A butterfly steering wheel means that you’ll have to cross your arms as you make big turns, which is just clumsy and unsafe.
The renderings also appear to show that Tesla has done away with its gear selector stalk that used to sit on the steering column. Instead, the company says it will move all of those buttons, and the indicator and wiper stalks, to the steering wheel, to put all the controls at the driver’s fingertips.
Tesla’s far from the first company to over-promise on a cool-looking steering wheel. As this article from Tuning Blog shows, car companies love to put radically styled steerers on concept cars to grab attention, and aftermarket modders love them for their unique looks.
It’s unlikely the new Model S will ship with the butterfly steering wheel, but there’s nothing stopping you from putting on your own.
SHIFT is brought to you by Polestar. It’s time to accelerate the shift to sustainable mobility. That is why Polestar combines electric driving with cutting-edge design and thrilling performance. Find out how.
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.