Keep the steering wheel - Volvo report
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Drivers aren't ready to relinguish all controls in autonomous vehicles
The all-new Volvo S90 will be equipped with highly-autonomous driving technology as standard across the range, but the steering wheel and pedals won’t be shifting to the optional extras list anytime soon.
That’s simple enough logic, of course: it’s the year 2016 and motorists won’t be allowed to cruise entirely hands-free for some years yet – no matter what Google might think commuters re looking for in a driverless car.
And while the likes of Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Nissan and Tesla are getting their cars ready and pre-equipped for anticipated new laws that will make hands-off ‘driving’ legal, motorists will want – and need – that steering wheel in front of them even longer.
A new survey of 10,000 global motorists carried out by Volvo, has found that while a significant majority (78 per cent) of respondents believe autonomous technology will be a worthwhile addition to the world’s roads, a huge 92 per cent said that a driver should be able to take control back from a driverless car at any moment.
“People have told us that they need to feel in control and have the choice of when to delegate driving to the car,” Volvo monitoring and concept centre general manager, Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, said.
“Today, that need is ultimately fulfilled with the presence of a steering wheel. Therefore, a steering wheel is necessary until those needs change.”
Of course, car makers and governments are already mindful of this expectation. Driverless vehicle technology is expected to be phased in over the coming decades, beginning with partially- and highly-autonomous systems that will allow motorists to take their hands and eyes off the road in certain areas, but with the understanding that control must at times be returned to the driver.
The day when we might step into a spacious lounge-like cabin free of the usual driving controls is unquestionably 10 to 15 years away, at best – if only because, as this study suggests, the general public simply isn't ready for it.
Evidence? For one, the survey found that 88 per cent of respondents believe autonomous vehicle technology should “respect the love of driving” – although you’d be forgiven for thinking that the majority of your fellow commuters have little love or respect for the craft.
A greater 90 per cent agreed that driverless vehicles should be able to pass human driving tests. Of course, driving tests in most countries are famously easy to pass and you would rightly expect that an autonomous car should be far more capable than a human driving test would ever require.
And a result that reflects well on Volvo, given the announcement last year that it would accept blame in such situations: 81 per cent of respondents believed that the car manufacturer, and not the occupant or owner, should be responsible for any accident caused by the vehicle.