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Rising Standards

It was not always thus. In the early days of the evolution of the automobile, numerous other controls for steering were tried. Tiller bars were common in early models, in part because the actual mechanics were simpler. But steering wheels eventually won through a process of natural selection among engineers and the driving public. This evolution was possible precisely because automotive designers were not constrained by premature standards nor were they compelled to be different for the sake of being different simply because someone or some company claimed intellectual property rights on the “look-and-feel” of circular steering controls.

For most of the really important aspects of user interfaces, standards are unnecessary. Superior arrangements and mechanisms will gradually win out in the marketplace of products and of ideas. Tiller bars, like steering wheels, establish a fairly simple translation between control movement and directional change, but they have critical limitations. If a group of well-intentioned industry leaders or a government standards body had mandated a standard “look-and-feel” for steering controls when tiller bars had the lead, automobiles would have been kept limited to local travel at modest speeds.


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