In my opinion steering wheels for automobiles are a bad UX. They seem to be a control that are here for legacy reasons only and were not thought out in the context of new age technology. What would be a better solution for steering an automobile?
Why steering wheels are a bad UX
1. Counter-intuitive control
Without any preconceived notion of what the steering wheel should do and how cars turn the steering wheel motion does not intuitively show that it will turn a vehicle in the way we intend it to.
The steering wheel rotates in a circular motion around the x-axis:
While the tires pivot around the y-axis:
The car as we intend it to turn also pivots around the y-axis. If the car would actually maneuver in the same manner that turning a steering wheel did then it would perform a barrel roll.
2. Poor Ergonomics
Ergonomics - the parts or qualities of something's design that make it easy to use
Cars are used by most people a very regular basis, often multiple times a day for long periods of time. When using a traditional steering wheel you have your arms outstretched in front of you at approximately shoulder height. Sustaining this position for long periods of time can cause discomfort and fatigue.
3. Impractical Motions
Depending on your speed and vehicle you may have to turn the steering wheel a different amount to get the car to turn to a certain degree, but in many cases the amount of turning required is not able to be accomplished with just one hand. You must grip the wheel with both hands and continuously "feed" the other hand with more wheel to grip. This is both unsafe as you could lose grip and inefficient as it requires so much effort for a task that must be accomplished regularly.
Why do we still use them then?
I assume the main reason we use this type of steering wheel is it is just standard convention. Steering wheels have been in place since the advent of the automobile. There have been many rules and regulations created about cars and how they operate to make them safe for drivers so presumably it would be no small task to reinvent the wheel (see what I did there..). But with power steering becoming more prevalent I believe it would be fairly easy to adapt that technology to implement any type of steering control we wanted. So I ask:
What would be a good replacement for the traditional steering wheel?