Joystick controlled vehicle drive system with independing wheels

The idea that finally got me back into robot building. Or at least design using electroics.

The premise is to create a new drive system for a vehicle. I want to start small at first, then grow larger up to person carrying abilities. I have a lot of previous experience creating glorified RC cars for "robot" competisions, so I'm not trying to do anything autonomous, or even remote controled.

My objective for the first stage of my prototype, is to use a joystick (basically two pots) to rotate a ring to a specific angle. The ring would bassically move to the same direction as the joystick was pointing. For example, if it was pointing north, so would the ring. The ring would be moved by a motor, and the position of the ring measured with a rotary encoder.

At least this is what I think it should be...

The idea is to have the direction of the ring, match that of the direction of the joystick, and follow its position. If I rotate the joy in circles, I want the ring to follow. This is the most major problem I need to overcome, and is far beyond my level of knoledge to do with simply physical parts. Which is why I want to add some programming.

I would love some help with this, as I have no idea how to progress to a point where I can start measuing encoders, or If it is even possible to.

I will attach some rambling hand drawn diagrams at a later stage. Eventually I will have this drawn up in AutoCad.