I can’t write the actual words I said to The Drive’s Editor-in-Chief the day of the Tesla Cybertruck launch, but it’s safe to say that I was skeptical of what we would see as the absolute final product (and CEO Elon Musk’s tweets confirmed that later on). Tesla has been developing a little bit of a history with this type of launch—introduce something wild and it becomes abundantly clear what Tesla can do in lieu of having an advertising budget.
Yesterday’s announcement of the refreshed Model S and Model X during Tesla’s earnings call is a prime example of this, with the wildest element of the entire car being its yoke-shaped steering wheel. I began to doubt it. There’s no way that this was the only option, right? Well, after dabbling a bit in Tesla’s online configurator, I’m here to tell you that Tesla does in fact have a contingency plan: a normal steering wheel.
No—this isn’t a render we made, it’s an actual image inside of Tesla’s configurator. It’s just hidden from view. But if you happen to dig into the site’s source code a bit, you can pull out the array that generates the image using configurable components. Let’s dissect an image link and find out more.
Here is the link for a basic Tesla Model S Plaid. It contains an array with permutable variables that let you build the Tesla in a choose-your-own-adventure kind of way. Change them inside of Tesla’s configurator and the URL for the image silently changes in the background.
If you view the image by itself, you’ll get the actual URL. You can now modify the variables directly, however, these changes are useless without knowing what values you can choose from. A quick peek at the source code shows that the very last value in the link’s array is labeled “STEERING_WHEEL,” and you have two choices to swap through. Change those values will swap the wheel between the yoke (half-wheel) and standard wheel. This option isn’t configurable on the site itself and has to be tweaked through values that are passed through the image’s URL.
Sadly neither option brings back the turn signal stalks, so that’s still a bit concerning.
- $ST0Y – Half wheel
- $ST03 – Full wheel
So there you have it. The new Model S and Model X might not have that weird yoke-style steering wheel after all. We’ve seen this concept quite a few times—in the Next Generation Roadster, the Model Y concept, the Cybertruck—so far only one of those have made it to production, and it didn’t have the yoke.
Will the refreshed Model S and X have it? Maybe, but it seems like a design choice that would be fairly unusual for a road-going luxury sedan, not to mention potentially problematic for someone who isn’t used to this type of configuration. This could all be some free publicity for Tesla too—like what better time to get some press than right before a vehicle launch? Tesla will begin deliveries of the Model S in February, so we’ll find out soon enough.
Update: Thursday January 28, 2021, 9:36 a.m. ET
Tesla has pulled the more traditional steering wheel from its website. Despite the snippet of code remaining on the website, changing the URL now results in a “Page Not Found” error. It’s not clear why Tesla may have done this. Perhaps the automaker prefers that the public see its more radical design, or maybe it really will launch the refreshed Model S and Model X with its yoke-style controls.
Either way, Tesla appears to be doubling-down on the obscure changes. On Twitter, Musk claims that the vehicle will no longer have turn signal stalks and states that the vehicle will guess the drive direction based on its surroundings and driver input.
Got a tip? Send us a note: email@example.com