Why Toyota’s revolutionary steering wheel is going to be revolutionary… and make people forget about Tesla’s yoke
Lexus, a brand of the Toyota group, has just announced a delay concerning the arrival of its yoke steering wheel on the Lexus RZ electric cars and the Toyota bZ4X. According to the manufacturer, the engineers do not necessarily encounter a problem, but above all they want this system to be perfect. Perhaps they also took into account the remarks about some defects found on the yoke of the Tesla Model S.
Coincidence or not, Lexus recently introduced a steering wheel similar to that of the new version of the Tesla Model S. It is a steering wheel without the upper part, with a rather particular form resembling the control of an airplane.
This chance of the calendar also reminds us of that of the Lexus ES which, at the end of 2018, when Audi was going to launch the first camera mirrors on a production car with the e-tron (which has recently become Q8 e-tron), had finally pulled the rug out from under the Ingolstadt-based automaker by showcasing similar technology on its sedan.
Lexus does not want to repeat Tesla’s mistakes
This time, Lexus did not beat Tesla, since his yoke has obviously fallen behind in its conception as the manufacturer explains. The delay is not believed to be due to a problem with the shape of the steering wheel itself, but rather necessary adjustments to the steering.
Indeed, the yoke, which should arrive on the Lexus RZ (a more classic steering wheel will also be available), benefits from a Steer-by-wire system, like its cousin the Toyota bZ4X. Behind this complicated name actually hides an electric steering technology that works using sensors, without any mechanical link between the steering wheel and the wheels. The Lexus video below explains this technology quite well.
To summarize it succinctly, sensors send the digital signal of the angle of the steering wheel to a module which makes it possible to turn the wheels. The advantage is that with the particular shape of the steering wheel, this direction makes it possible not to exceed an angle of 150 degrees, that is to say, to have less than half a turn of the steering wheel from stop to stop to turn around. A problem that Tesla unfortunately did not necessarily take into account with its yoke steering wheel, since maneuvers without the top of the steering wheel are sometimes a little complicated. Tesla’s yoke requires about 450 degrees to make a U-turn, which is 3 times more than Toyota/Lexus’ steering wheel.
The steering of the Lexus will therefore offer a feeling of precision, with little angle at the steering wheel to turn the wheels. Note that the angle also depends on the speed: the slower the car drives, the more the steering wheel turns the wheels of the car for a similar angle. At high speeds, it is the reverse, for better stability and more precision.
In this sense, a yoke steering wheel therefore has a little more interest, especially since that of the Japanese firm seems more ergonomic and fits better in the hands. Lexus has also not renewed the idea of Tesla (which was inspired by Ferrari) to put the turn signal controls on the steering wheel. An investment of which we were not very convinced during our test of the Tesla Model S Plaid. The Japanese firm preferred to keep the classic comodos.
Will this system soon be fitted to all our cars?
Overall, this Steer-by-wire technology is not revolutionary since some models have been equipped with it for several years. In Europe, there was in particular the late Infiniti which marketed cars equipped with this technology, but let’s say that the development was not perfect with blurring in the direction and little feedback from the steering wheel. The result is that you never really knew where you were putting your wheels.
This is what Lexus is working on and that’s also why the Japanese manufacturer’s yoke will be late. As Yushi Higashiyama, the project’s assistant chief engineer, explains, Lexus wants its system to be perfect, but there are some areas that need to be refined. He also talks about a “new and pioneering technology”. With a yoke steering wheel and for Lexus it is indeed the case, but as stated above, the Steer-by-wire system is nothing new.
Will this system be democratized on our cars of tomorrow? Certainly, especially at a time when manufacturers are looking to save on the weight of their car. Replacing a mechanical link with sensors obviously means saving a few precious pounds on the scale.
This will also be of interest on sports cars, where steering precision is an essential point of driving pleasure. And that’s pretty good, Lexus has ideas for a sporty and electric future, with the replacement for the iconic LFA which should be electric.
In any case, the One Motion Grip direction is not planned for immediately at Lexus, since the manufacturer mentions in its press release an introduction for 2025 on the RZ. It should also be adopted on the Toyota bZ4X.
On the occasion of the Tokyo Motor Show, Lexus unveils an electric car, in the form of a rather spectacular concept car called Lexus RZ Sport Concept. It has the look of a Japanese sports car from the 90s, but…
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