Tesla’s new steering wheel: a new revolution coming up

Tesla's new steering wheel: a new revolution coming up

Tesla’s new steering wheel is a new step by Tesla in the world of electric vehicles: the Model 3 and Model Y will swap their switches for touch buttons.

     If you’ve ever driven a Tesla electric car, especially a Model 3 or Model Y, you’ve probably been surprised by the dashboard. Small buttons are integrated into Tesla’s new steering wheel, two switches behind the wheel, and everything else is controlled by the large 15-inch touch screen in the middle of the center console. You’ll find nothing but plastic where you’ll instinctively look for the controls for the air conditioning, the audio system, or any other function.

On a Model 3 and Model Y, the left-hand switch is primarily used for turn signals, but it can also activate or flash the car’s high beams. The button at the end of the switch brings up the windshield wiper controls. The console’s button on the right-hand side is used to change gears, activate Autopilot, and put the car in park mode. The button can also activate the vehicle’s emergency braking by holding it down.

  • Tesla’s new steering wheel, goodbye to Commodos.

According to ChrisZheng001, a source close to Tesla’s supply chains in China, the Model 3 and Model Y would get a new steering wheel in 2023. The new steering wheel would follow what has already been done on the new Model S, replacing commodos with touch buttons on the wheel.

Tesla’s new steering wheel could also look like the steering wheel of the Tesla Semi. This electric truck does not have any commodos; it has the same control buttons on the steering wheel, and the speed management (forward, reverse, or neutral) is done on the touch screen.

  • Tesla’s new steering wheel: a logical step from Tesla

In Tesla’s logic, it seems logical to remove the physical buttons. First of all, it allows to make economies of scale and simplifies production. Moreover, the American manufacturer is investing heavily in Autopilot to automate driving as much as possible.

Another argument in favor of centralized touchscreen-based controls is that physical controls do not bind the functions, and the system can be continuously updated – it is also undeniable that it allows a minimalist and uncluttered dashboard appearance.

  • Tesla’s new steering wheel: touchscreen not easy to use

Even after several months of driving a Tesla Model 3, using the central touchscreen is not as easy as it seems. You can’t navigate the screen from the new steering wheel controls. The screen is often the only option, despite the presence of the voice assistant, which is still perfect.

It is enough that a contact to be called is present several times in your directory to complicate a simple oral request, for example. The same is true for launching music, searching for navigation, and managing the ventilation… Using the screen is essential in many cases. However, no matter how intuitive the screen is, a touch screen does not seem as fast and intuitive as turning a knob to turn down the heat.

Recently, a study by the Swedish automotive magazine Vi Bilägare showed that physical buttons are much faster to use than touchscreens. By extension, buttons are less intrusive than touch screens, and you’ll spend less time looking away from the road.

The study incorporated a dozen vehicles – the majority were newer cars whose functions are largely performed via touchscreens – including the BMW iX, Tesla Model 3, SEAT Leon, MG Marvel R, and Dacia Sandero, a 2005 Volvo V70 with traditional physical controls.

The study showed that it only took 10 seconds for the drivers of the old Volvo, while it took about three times as long for the drivers of the BMW iX, i.e., 30.4 seconds, and up to 44.9 seconds for the MG Marvel R. The mechanism was the same for all the cars. Then the heated seats had to be turned on; the temperature had to be raised; the defroster had to be started. The radio had to be turned on.

Increasing the amount of time spent using the most basic functions of a car can be dangerous. In the study, they went so far as to calculate the distance each car traveled while users manipulated the controls. This ranged from only 306 meters with the 2005 Volvo cd and up to 1,372 meters with the MG Marvel R.

No matter how long it might take you to do something, the physical buttons allow you to do it by touch. This means you don’t necessarily have to take your eyes off the road.