Toyota has shown a LandCruiser Prado prototype that lacks accelerator and brake pedals in favour of hand controls on an aviation or Formula One-style steering ‘yoke’ similar to some Tesla electric vehicles.
This Prado concept, which will make its premiere this week on Toyota’s exhibit at the Tokyo Motor Show, is nearly identical to a conventional vehicle, but with a few key modifications.
The accelerator and brake pedals have been removed, and hand-operated controls on the ‘yoke’ steering wheel – similar to an aeroplane or Formula One race car, and employed in road vehicles to considerable controversy by US electric-auto giant Tesla – have been installed.
Toyota claims the ‘Neo Steer’ system, which was inspired by motorcycle handlebars, is meant for “unrestricted driving position along with smooth entry and exit” and “safe, intuitive hand-operated driving for users with lower limb impairments.”
The Japanese automaker has announced intentions to equip select models with a yoke, most notably the Lexus RZ450e premium electric SUV and the Chinese-market version of its BZ4X electric SUV twin, albeit its operation differs significantly from that of Tesla’s electric vehicles.
Tesla’s yoke steering wheel is attached to a traditional steering rack, requiring multiple turns from lock to lock, whereas Toyota’s systems are equipped with a’steer-by-wire’ system, which provides a steering ratio that can automatically adjust according to the vehicle’s speed, eliminating the need for hand-over-hand manoeuvres.
The Tesla yoke system drew criticism when it first appeared overseas in the Model S and Model X in 2021, with owners complaining that it was difficult to use at low speeds and lacked traditional indicator, windscreen wiper, and gear selector stalks, leading to it becoming a cost option rather than standard equipment in January 2023.
The carmaker claims that the unique driving configuration is intended for drivers with leg limitations, but it can also be used to provide extra space for normally-abled occupants.
“A sweeping field of vision made possible by the steering wheel’s irregular profile, and the roomy pedal-free floor space, enable an unrestricted driving position along with smooth entry and exit,” the company said in a statement to the media.
“The Neo Steer will help foster greater love for automobiles and bring the joy and excitement of mobility to all.” [It] also provides users with lower limb disabilities with safe, intuitive hand-operated driving.”
For the time being, it is assumed that the Neo Steer system will remain a concept, as Toyota has not disclosed any intentions to modify the production LandCruiser Prado’s interior to include the yoke-equipped and pedal-less configuration.