While a touch screen netbook will make a great interactive instrument cluster, it would be impractical without a few physical buttons (possibly on the steering wheel). A while ago I came JoyCon a series of products that allow you to interface many types of controls to other controls. In this instance, taking steering wheel button input and converting that USB HID signals.
On the RX8 steering wheel (and most others) there are two wires for the steering wheel buttons, a voltage input and a voltage return. Each button runs on a separate resistor so when it is pressed it returns a voltage specific to that button. The JoyCon simply converts those signals to keyboard strokes. This will enable me to use the buttons on the RX8 steering wheel and even create my own from simple dash switches/buttons to control the PC.
I had a play with the JoyCon when it arrived and I must say it is very easy to configure and the build quality is A grade. The vendor also included a bag of various resistors so that I could make buttons without even needed to take a trip to the local electronics store.! Nice!!
P.S. For anyone that is interested in a JoyConEx (pictured above) you can find them on eBay.