Why Toyota’s Revolutionary Steering Wheel Is Going to Be Revolutionary…and Make People Forget Tesla’s Yoke

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Lexus, a Toyota group brand, has just announced a delay in the arrival of its steering wheel yoke to the Lexus RZ electric cars and the Toyota bZ4X. According to the manufacturer, the engineers do not necessarily find a problem, but above all they want this system to be perfect. Perhaps they also took into account the comments about some defects found in the yoke of the Tesla Model S.

Lexus RZ 450e
Source : Lexus

Coincidence or not, Lexus recently introduced a steering wheel similar to the one in the new version of the Tesla Model S. It is a steering wheel without the top, with a rather particular shape that resembles the control of an airplane.

This calendar fluke also reminds us of the Lexus ES that back in late 2018, when Audi was going to launch the first camera mirrors on a production car with the e-tron (which has recently become the Q8 e- thunder). ), finally pulled the rug out from under the Ingolstadt-based automaker by showing off similar technology in its sedan.

Lexus does not want to repeat Tesla’s mistakes

This time, Lexus did not beat Tesla, since his yoke has obviously been left behind in his design as explained by the manufacturer. The delay is not believed to be due to a problem with the shape of the steering wheel itself, but to necessary adjustments to the steering.

In fact, the yoke, which should make its way to 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 is actually hidden an electric steering technology that works through sensors, without any mechanical link between the steering wheel and the wheels. The following video from Lexus explains this technology quite well.

In short, the sensors send the digital signal of the angle of the steering wheel to a module that allows the wheels to be turned. The advantage is that with the particular shape of the steering wheel, this steering allows not to exceed an angle of 150 degrees, that is, having less than half a turn of the steering wheel from lock to lock to turn. An issue Tesla sadly didn’t necessarily account for with its steering wheel yoke, as maneuvering without the top of the steering wheel is sometimes a bit tricky. Tesla’s yoke requires about 450 degrees to make a U-turn, which is 3 times more than Toyota/Lexus’s steering wheel.

The direction of the Lexus will therefore offer a feeling of precision, with little angle on the steering wheel to turn the wheels. Note that the angle also depends on speed: the slower you drive the car, the more the steering wheel turns the car’s wheels at a similar angle. At high speeds, it is the other way around, for better stability and more precision.

In this sense, a yoke steering wheel is therefore a little more interesting, especially since the one from the Japanese firm seems more ergonomic and adapts better to the hands. Lexus has not renewed Tesla’s idea (which was inspired by Ferrari) to put the turn signal controls on the steering wheel either. An investment that we were not very convinced of during our test of the Tesla Model S Plaid. The Japanese firm preferred to keep the classics comfortable.

Will this system be installed in all our cars soon?

In general, this steer-by-wire technology is not revolutionary, since some models have equipped it for several years. In Europe, there was in particular the extinct Infiniti that marketed cars equipped with this technology, but let’s just say that the development was not perfect with blur in the steering 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 for this reason also the yoke of the Japanese manufacturer will be late. As Yushi Higashiyama, assistant chief engineer on the project, 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, but as stated above, the Steer-by-wire system is nothing new.

Will this system be democratized in our cars of tomorrow? Certainly, especially at a time when manufacturers are looking to save on the weight of their car. Replacing a mechanical linkage with sensors obviously means saving a few precious pounds on the scale.

This will also be of interest in sports cars, where steering precision is an essential point of driving pleasure. And that’s pretty good, Lexus has ideas for a sporty, electric future, with the replacement for the iconic LFA supposed to be electric.

In any case, the One Motion Grip steering is not immediately planned for Lexus, as the manufacturer mentions in its press release. an introduction for 2025 on the RZ. It should also be adopted in the Toyota bZ4X.

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