Tesla Steering Wheels Are Rectangular Now, Just Like Knight Rider

Tesla has shown off their Model S sedan, which has a rectangular steering wheel, much like the car KITT from Knight Rider.

By Faith McKay | Updated

This article is more than 2 years old

Knight Rider KITT

Tesla likes to surprise people with their designs, as the way they approach making cars is a bit different than other companies. That’s true from an aesthetic and eco-friendly standpoint. Most companies aren’t designing cars that would make great movie props, but the Cybertruck looks like it is ready for the next Mad Max movie and now the Model S sedan isn’t far off from being ready for Knight Rider.

When you design a super cool car for a television production, you don’t actually do it while thinking about what’s practical or comfortable for actually driving it yourself. When they designed KITT for Knight Rider, they just needed the car to look neat and be memorable. In real life, cars are typically designed with other considerations taking priority. If the car drives itself, though, it doesn’t really matter how comfortable or functional it is for manual use. So why not give it a rectangular steering wheel and put a gaming computer next to the wheel? Apparently, Tesla decided that was a rad idea.

Today, Tesla revealed their refreshed Model S sedan at their annual financial presentation for 2020. The biggest changes are inside the car, and while maybe they’re being called goofy, that may not be a bad thing, since they’re definitely grabbing attention. 

Inside K.I.T.T.

KITT’s dashboard in Knight Rider always looked more like a video game. While it definitely has more buttons and flashy lights than the Tesla Model S, both vehicles have that rectangular steering configuration that require two hands to hold. They are also both used by pressing buttons. And boy, did KITT have buttons. Look at all those buttons!

In both the Tesla model and in KITT, you barely need to use the wheel. This is part of what makes the car so fun in the show. At the time, the flashy buttons seemed advanced. They also remove a lot of thinking or skill required of the driver. This was fine in Knight Rider, since KITT could think for you. Now that Tesla is working toward an autonomous vehicle, they’re approaching it the same way. This kind of thinking is apparent in the new Tesla Model S, where manual driving requires you to push buttons if you want to use a turn signal, horn, lights, windshield wiper, or other features usually found on stalks near a round wheel. 

Inside the new Tesla Model S

You don’t need to shift gears in the Tesla vehicle. Elon Musk says the car shifts itself by “guessing”. If he wants to assuage anyone’s fears about a self-driving car, he might not want to use words like “guessing”. If you want to manually override the gear the car has shifted itself into, you can find an override option in the touchscreen. 

This isn’t actually the first time Tesla has suggested a yoke steering wheel. In the prototypes for both the Cybertruck and Roadster vehicles, there were similar rectangular yoke designs. It’s been reported that the Cybertruck will have the option for a yoke or a regular round wheel. An employee at Tesla who drove a vehicle with a similar steering configuration said it did take some getting used to. 

Currently, you still need to actually drive the Tesla Model S manually, but Elon Musk has promised that by the end of 2021 that won’t be necessary.