Lexus, a brand of the Toyota group, has just announced a delay regarding the arrival of its yoke steering on the Lexus RZ electric cars and the Toyota bZ4X. According to the manufacturer, the engineers do not necessarily encounter a problem, but above all they want this system to be perfect. Perhaps they also took into account the comments about some defects found on the Tesla Model S yoke.
Coincidence or not, Lexus recently introduced a steering wheel similar to that of the new version of the Tesla Model S. It is a steering wheel without the top part, with a rather unusual shape that resembles the controls of an airplane.
This opportunity on the calendar also reminds us of that of the Lexus ES that at the end of 2018, when Audi was due to launch the first camera mirrors on a production car with the e-tron (since Q8 e-tron), finally had the rug under the automaker from Ingolstadt by demonstrating similar technology on his sedan.
Lexus does not want to repeat Tesla’s mistakes
This time around, Lexus hasn’t beaten Tesla since his yoke has clearly fallen behind in his design as the manufacturer explains. It is believed that the delay is not due to a problem with the shape of the steering wheel itself, but rather necessary adjustments to the steering.
Indeed, the yoke, which should come on the Lexus RZ (a 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 an electrical control technique that works with sensors, without any mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the wheels. The Lexus video below explains this technology quite well.
To summarize briefly: sensors send the digital signal of the angle of the steering wheel to a module that makes it possible to turn the wheels. The advantage is that with the particular shape of the handlebars, this direction allows not to exceed an angle of 150 degrees, that is, having less than half a turn of the steering wheel from stop to stop to turn around. A problem that Tesla with its yoke steering wheel unfortunately did not necessarily take into account, since maneuvers without the top of the steering wheel are sometimes a bit complicated. The Tesla yoke takes about 450 degrees to make a U-turn, which is 3 times more than the Toyota/Lexus steering wheel.
The Lexus’ steering will therefore offer a sense of precision, with little angle to the steering wheel to turn the wheels. Note that the angle also depends on the speed: the slower the car moves, the more the steering wheel turns the car’s wheels for a similar angle. At high speeds it is reversed, for more stability and more precision.
In that sense, a yoke handlebar has a little more interest, especially because that of the Japanese firm seems more ergonomic and feels better in the hands. Lexus has also not renewed Tesla’s idea (which was inspired by Ferrari) to place the indicator controls on the steering wheel. An investment that we were not so convinced of during our test of the Tesla Model S Plaid. The Japanese company preferred to keep the classic comodos.
Will this system soon be in all our cars?
In general, this Steer-by-wire technology is not revolutionary as some models have been equipped with it for years. In Europe, in particular, there was the late Infiniti marketing cars equipped with this technology, but let’s just say the development wasn’t perfect with direction blurring and little feedback from the steering wheel. As a result, you never really knew where you put your wheels.
Lexus is working on that and that is also the reason why the Japanese manufacturer’s yoke comes too late. As Yushi Higashiyama, the project’s assistant chief engineer, 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 breakthrough technology”. With a steering yoke and for Lexus that is indeed the case, but as mentioned, the Steer-by-wire system is nothing new.
Will this system be democratized on our cars of tomorrow? Especially at a time when manufacturers want to save on the weight of their car. Replacing a mechanical coupling with sensors naturally means saving a few precious kilos on the scale.
This will also be important in sports cars, where steering precision is an essential point of driving pleasure. And that’s a good thing, Lexus has ideas for a sporty and electric future, with the replacement for the iconic LFA that should be electric.
In any case, the One Motion Grip direction is not directly planned at Lexus, as the manufacturer states that in its press release an introduction for 2025 on the RZ. It should also be adopted on the Toyota bZ4X.
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