They say – well, some point out – that Teslas are dangerous (in addition to being fatuous) because they are suspiciously fire-prone in accidents – and sometimes, while sitting in your garage, charging. They say – well, a few have been pointing out – that Teslas with “self driving” capability are dangerous, because they sometimes drive themselves – along with whomever’s along for the ride – into things, killing people sometimes.
But there is another thing about Teslas that makes them dangerous that – it appears – no one has yet noticed, despite it staring everyone in the face:
Their steering wheel.
The 2022 Tesla S Plaid (named the latter to riff off a line in the old Mel Brooks Movie, Spaceballs, which mocked Star Wars, one-upping light speed with . . . plaid speed, which was even faster) has a three-sided thing that looks a lot like a riff off the ‘80s TeeVee series, Knight Rider. That one featured a self-driving black Trans-Am that featured a similar-looking not-steering wheel meant to suggest an aviation yoke.
But airplanes don’t steer like cars – they bank and roll rather than turn. And it’s hard to steer a car with an airplane-style yoke. Your range of motion, left-right, is limited by the degree to which you can move the yoke left-down and then right-and-down, because that is limited by the degree to which you can do it without taking your hands off of it.
A steering wheel has greater range of uninterrupted motion. There are no awkward/clunky near-right-angles to hand-over-hand. Especially if it happens to be spinning. And there isn’t a third of it missing, as it is from aviation yokes – and here, in the Plaid.
Controlling a yoked car is probably no problem at sluggish speeds, when no quick or extreme inputs from a driver are necessary. But what about when they are? As for example when it is necessary to avoid something that you will hit unless quick/extreme inputs are made?
Well, the reply is probably that the Tesla has many “advanced” forms of “driver assistance technology” – like the Knight 2000 (KITT) from Knight Rider – that will obviate this necessity. They are meant to obviate the driver, certainly. As in the Knight 2000, too. Vidal Sassooned and hair-permed Michael Knight was also along for the ride in the talking/self-driving car.
But that was TeeVee.
How about Tesla?
The intent, no doubt, was to imply a “cool” association that the aging Gen X’ers who grew up watching Knight Rider will connect with – that will make them think how cool the Tesla S is. Like being 13 again and propped up in front of the TeeVee, watching Knight Rider while waiting for mom to finish supper. ElonMusk is himself an aging Gen X’er and it is almost certainly the case that it was he who had the car that bears his name emulate KITT, right down to its yoke rather than a wheel.
But how is it that Elon gets away with it?
There’s a reason why almost every car made since the dawn of cars – and all cars made since the dawn of the government regulating them, in the name of saaaaaaaaaaafety – came with wheels that are round rather three-sided yokes that aren’t. Wheels turn. Yokes don’t. Not as much. Not as easily. The possibility of not being able to arc the yoke far enough in a course-correcting turn or suddenly necessary evasive maneuver – at least, not without letting go of it, to reposition one’s hands – is what you might describe as an affectation for the sake of styling at the expense of controllability.
If another car-maker, especially one not making electric cars, made such a car, there would likely be some interest over at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which is the federal apparat that is occasionally rabid about “safety” – when it doesn’t impinge upon anything the larger apparat is interested in promoting-pushing.
Such as electric cars and self-driving cars.
Especially Elon’s cars. Because they are so “cool” – and that is the carrot placed before the donkey, who doesn’t yet see the stick.
But all electric cars have track records of having problems uniquely specific to their form of propulsion – or rather, of energy storage. That being a built-in fire risk that’s inherently greater than it is with non-electric cars, which need both leaks and sparks together as precursors to fires while electric cars can (and have) spontaneously combusted, often while parked. This being an inherent risk with very high voltage batteries and very high (and “fast”) charging of them.
There have been some recalls of battery-powered cars – but no bans.
It is as if metal-tipped Lawn Darts – another Gen X reference – hadn’t been taken off the market on account of people being impaled by them as they descended back to the earth after having been hurled skyward.
Not even a warning label about the enhanced possibility of a fire – and why and when – is affixed to electric cars. Or to self-driving cars, as regards their tendency to self-drive themselves into things.
Especially Elon’s cars, which come standard with both risks and more than the usual of each, if the number of fires and “accidents” involving them are any indication. But it’s nothing-to-see-here, at least as far as NHTSA seems to be concerned. Probably because electric cars and self-driving cars – and especially Elon’s cars – are useful in the furtherance of the apparat’s broader mission, which has nothing to do with “keeping us safe” except insofar as that is useful as a questions-stifling catcall.
And so it appears to be, again, with regard to Elon’s yoke. It looks so very cool. But a Tesla S Plaid isn’t KITT – and using an airplane yoke to steer a car is not unlike holding a pistol sideways, something also seen on TeeVee that doesn’t work so good out in the real world.
. . .
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