The book by Wall Street Journal reporter Tim Higgins, called Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century, contains many alleged revelations about Elon and Tesla. In it the author makes many claims, such as the one about the talk that Musk and Apple’s Tim Cook had a few years ago (that both deny ever having), or more recently about how the Tesla Model Y was not meant to have a steering wheel.
Yes, you read that right - Higgins says that Elon Musk genuinely wanted the Model Y to not come with a helm of any kind, arguing that it was going to drive itself anyway. He adds that Doug Field, who was Tesla’s head of engineering until 2018, still put in the steering wheel, ignoring Elon’s request; Field was reportedly concerned by the fact that Musk interfered too much in the vehicle design process and he eventually left Tesla.
We’ll have to wait and see if Musk comments on this new rumor, but the Tesla founder has been known to say the days of the steering wheel are numbered, and that it will be buyers who will demand to have cars without one. Business Insider reminds us of what Musk said on the matter back in 2019, when he explained that
There will be a transition period where people are able to take over from the robotaxi but once regulators are comfortable with us not having a steering wheel, we will just delete that. The probability of the steering wheel being taken away is 100%. Consumers will demand it.
Now even though the disappearance of the steering wheel from vehicles is a distinct possibility in coming decades, perhaps not fitting one to the Tesla Model Y (launched last year) is an exaggeration. If Elon Musk really did request that for the Model Y, then it probably would not have been on the market today, because the self-driving tech would not have been ready.
Elon Musk isn’t always right and him recently admitting that making self driving cars is harder than he initially thought is proof of that. Cars in and around the year 2030 may come without a wheel (or it will still be there and retract out of the way, when the car drives itself), but to not have one in a 2020 vehicle just seems absurd when your self-driving software is in early Beta.
Many buyers who are experiencing the refreshed Model S with its yoke in place of a traditional wheel don't like it and would prefer a regular circular helm. We say that while the yoke looks cool and it improves visibility, it should not have been installed on any Tesla without also giving the cars variable steering.