Tesla, the electric vehicle (EV) maker known for bringing cutting-edge technology to the automotive space, just filed for a patent for a new type of technology — new, that is, unless you count the fact that Lexus is about to release a car essentially with the same tech.
Electrek reports that Tesla just filed a patent for a new steer-by-wire system. This system differs from traditional steering systems, which include mechanical linkages between the wheel inside the cabin and the wheels on the ground.
Steer-by-wire includes no such mechanical linkages, relying only on electrical connections between the steering wheel and actual wheels. Tesla has reportedly been teasing its development of such a system for years.
One advantage of steer-by-wire is that it allows for a more or less U-shaped yoke steering wheel instead of the normal round wheel, opening up space in the vehicle cabin for different configurations and designs. It also plays into the brand’s futuristic aesthetic, which is always a big deal for Tesla.
Tesla did include a yoke-style wheel on its Model S and Model X refresh, but without the steer-by-wire system, this change received mostly negative or mixed reviews. Without the steer-by-wire technology to back up the new type of wheel, reviewers and Tesla customers were confused and annoyed at having to get used to this new steering wheel shape for reasons that were not clear to them.
Tesla ended up offering unhappy customers an option to swap out their yokes for traditional round steering wheels (for a price, of course), according to The Verge, seemingly against the wishes of Tesla founder Elon Musk. In a turnabout — and perhaps related to the rollout of new steer-by-wire technology — the company recently announced a price increase for yoke steering options from $250 to $1,000.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 23, 2021
Though Tesla has finally gotten its steer-by-wire tech to a place where it could file a patent, it is incorrect to claim that Tesla’s patent for the steer-by-wire system is a totally unique breakthrough, as the Lexus RZ 450e, soon to be released onto the market, includes just such a system. The RZ 450e is Lexus’s first battery-electric vehicle, with prices starting at $59,650, per Car and Driver.
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