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Volvo study says people want to maintain control of driverless cars

The first time I let a robot take the wheel, I was understandably nervous. As humans, it’s inherently difficult for us to give up control in our lives, and that nervousness is amplified when we’re rolling down the freeway at 70 mph. As it happens, I worked up the nerve to let my semi-autonomous test car take the controls, and with a bevy of radar sensors and cameras at the ready, the car stayed within the lanes and maintained speed effortlessly.

The jump from semi-autonomous to fully driverless is a big one though, and the concept of having no control on the road is a tough pill for most people to swallow. A new survey done by Volvo says 92 percent of consumers want a steering wheel in their driverless cars, as the large majority of respondents said they should be able to take control of autonomous cars at any moment. This sentiment falls in line with a new California proposal that would require a steering wheel, pedals, and a licensed driver in all self-driving vehicles.

“People have told us that they need to feel in control and have the choice of when to delegate driving to the car,” said Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, General Manager of the Volvo Monitoring & Concept Center. “Today, that need is ultimately fulfilled with the presence of a steering wheel. Therefore, a steering wheel is necessary until those needs change.”

The study also posed the topic of accountability, and 81 percent of consumers agreed that car manufacturers, not individuals, should take responsibility when an accident involving a driverless car occurs. 90 percent of respondents also said autonomous cars should be able to pass a human driving test, and while 88 percent said piloted technology should respect “the love of driving,” 78 percent concurred that self-driving systems will make traveling time more useful and worthwhile.

Related: Should your self-driving car kill you to save a school bus full of kids?

Volvo has invested heavily in self-driving technology lately, most notably with the Concept 26 design study that debuted at the 2015 LA Auto Show. In the automaker’s mind, Concept 26 previews what the interiors of future driverless cars could look like.

“With Concept 26, we shared part of our long-term vision for fully autonomous cars. Now we’re focused on future solutions and collaborations to deliver the best in car experience for people using these autonomous vehicles,” continued Tylman-Mikiewicz. “Imagine a highway of autonomous cars, each filled with people relaxing, enjoying their favorite TV shows in high-definition, or catching up on work. It’s exciting to think about.”