New 2021 Tesla steering wheels have no gear shifter, Musk explains why

Chris Smith

When Tesla debuted a new racing car-esque steering wheel for new versions of the Model S and Model X electric cars there appeared to be a startling omission; a means of manually changing gear.

Unlike the current models, the 2021 steering wheel has no visible stalks. The company’s website initially claimed this enabled “the ultimate focus on driving: no stalks, no shifting.” That led many keen-eyed observers to quite reasonably ask: “How the bloody hell do I shift into reverse?”

The answer? You don’t. The car does. How does the car know? It guesses. In a tweet Elon Musk reveals the new models can make a decision, in context, over whether you want to go forwards or backwards when you turn on that battery. If the new Model S or Model X has gotten the wrong end of the stick, for whatever reason, drivers will be able to set it straight by using the centre console touchscreen.

“No more stalks,” Musk writes: “Car guesses drive direction based on what obstacles it sees, context & nav map. You can override on touchscreen.”

So, to expand on what the Tesla CEO says, thanks to the 360-degree sensors surrounding the car, and the highly accurate GPS maps, the vehicle should be able to make a very accurate determination of which way you want to go. In the rare circumstances it doesn’t work, it can be easily over-ridden with a prod of the touchscreen.

There’s also every chance the tech will learn based on your familiar routine. So, if you back out of the same parking spot every day, the vehicle will likely recognise that based on your location and the direction you’re currently facing.

In a further tweet replying to the @WholeMarsBlog account, Musk elaborated: “After you drive without using a PRND stalk/stick for a few days, it gets very annoying to go back & use a shifter!”

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