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The locks were implemented decades ago when it was easy to hotwire and start a car. Locking the wheel was somewhat of a theft deterrent and supposed to make the car un-drivable if the engine was running, but was pretty easy to break the column on most cars. With the newer electronics and anti-theft it appears they're moving away from locking columns. Probably saves the automaker money and might be considered a safety consideration with push-button start where you wouldn't want the wheel to accidentally lock while the car is moving is someone accidentally pressed the ignition button.
 
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