They're not exactly "removing mechanical operation", I'm sure they did it to save money because a shift mechanism with multiple points (P, R, N, D) is more expensive to make than this thing which is really just a glorified rocker switch. It probably just uses standard microswitches (one on each side of the center neutral position), the same as in your mouse, and costs a fraction as much as the multi-position shifters.
As for electric steering, that's a BIG improvement. That's not to save money, it's to save fuel. Hydraulic steering was a major gas waster on cars because the engine had to drive the hydraulic pump constantly, even if you weren't steering and were just cruising on the highway and didn't need any assist at all (you don't need assist at higher speeds, only at low speeds). First they went to electro-hydraulic steering, with an electric motor running the hydro pump so you could turn if off or down at higher speeds, and now they've gone full electric with a motor driving the steering shaft directly to give you assist. It's not drive-by-wire: you're still turning the shaft that links to the rack and pinion and turns the wheel, you're just getting an assist from an electric motor bolted to the shaft. It'll probably be a long time before they change to full drive-by-wire for steering because of safety concerns.
As for hand brakes, I can only guess that's some kind of cost-cutting move (probably simpler factory assembly), or maybe to free up space in the cabin. It seems like a bad idea to me because the parking brake doubles as an emergency brake, and keeping it fully mechanical is a good backup mechanism, even if the rear brakes aren't all that powerful.
My 2015 Mazda has electric steering and it's excellent: it has great road feedback, and fuel economy is excellent. However it also has a traditional mechanical parking brake, and also the standard 4-position automatic shifter (not this stupid Chrysler rocker switch thing) with manual override and paddle shifters. Mazda's generally known for their driving dynamics and making drivers' cars, so they'll probably be the last to jump on some of these dumb ideas, if ever.