It might look ridiculous, but apparently it's safe to use.
Tesla is no stranger to controversy, whether it involves CEO Elon Musk's battles with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the ongoing Full Self-Driving testing, or the recall debate surrounding failing touchscreens. The yoke steering wheel on the just-revealed and refreshed Tesla Model S and Model X is the latest source of debate. Some believe this is Tesla's way of preparing drivers for the day when no steering wheel is necessary. While that's certainly possible, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently working to determine whether the yoke wheel is even safe to use. But one country has just given its seal of safety approval.
According to Dutch language news outlet RTL Nieuws, the Netherlands has no qualms with the wheel.
The RDW, the government agency responsible for vehicle registration and licensing, has officially approved its use on public roads.
"The shape of the steering wheel is nowhere prescribed in EU or UNECE legislation," the agency said. However, it noted that not all steering wheels found in new vehicles are completely round. Flat-bottom steering wheels are one example. "Many cars already have a flattened steering wheel at the bottom. Not only is it easier to get in, but it is also easier to recognize the position of the steering wheel," the report said. "The trend is that more and more vehicles will have a rectangular steering wheel in the future. The number of revolutions from full left to full right is also not regulated. As long as this is from -90 to +90 degrees, there is no reason why you should have an upper edge. Two handles will suffice."
The Netherlands' decision, for now, has not been adopted by other European countries. It will be interesting to learn what neighboring Germany has to say on the matter. Germany, of course, is home to some of the world's most famous automakers, specifically BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and the Volkswagen Group. All three view Tesla as their primary target for electric vehicle benchmarking. Tesla's advanced batteries and vehicle communications software are two other areas where Germany's domestic carmakers need improvement.
Chances are, the NHTSA will ultimately have no problem with the new steering wheel design but customer acceptance is a totally different matter.