The usefulness of buttons on the wheel should be maximized in controlling the interface to avoid having to "peck touchscreens or distant buttons with fingers", and multiple types of feedback - visual, tactile, auditory, etc - should reinforce the driver's sense of what actions he's taking in what context.
Microsoft and Ford are already close to this in existing cars with the Sync system. My 2015 Fusion, using the controls on the steering wheel, is actually very intuitive, and the voice control features aren't terribly implemented either. The menu affecting the vehicle itself is front and center in the instrument cluster, and is easy enough to glance at without completely distracting yourself from the road.
They do need to work on the feedback, though. If you're not using the voice controls, there almost isn't any outside of the tactile feel of pressing the button. Overall, what they're talking about here seems to be a good step in the right direction from existing technology.