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Volvo Wants to Know What You Think About Autonomous Cars

Would you trust a car without a steering wheel?

Volvo plans to be the first mainstream automaker to test automated vehicles on public roads in 2017, and now it wants your opinion on autonomous cars. The test beginning in Gothenburg, Sweden, a bit more than a year from now, "will put 100 real consumers in autonomous cars," notes its new U.S.-based survey website, www.FutureofDriving.com, which has a 10-question survey on the quickly emerging technology.

The Gothenburg test, which will place 100 automated Volvo XC90s in customers' hands, is limited to about 50 kilometers (31 miles) of mapped roads, there. While Tesla, which already has flashed Model S owners' software to allow semi-automated driving on limited-access public roads, Volvo will not demand that its test subjects pay attention to the road and remain in control while the automated system is engaged. The XC90s are otherwise conventional vehicles much like the crossovers on sale now.

Volvo says the XC90 drivers may read, check emails or do any of a number of things for which autonomy serves as a replacement driver while on the 50-kilometer stretch, and it has committed to accepting legal responsibility for any accidents caused by the automated system when it is engaged.

The first question at FutureOfDriving.com is "I would be comfortable in a car without a steering wheel; Agree or Disagree." The second is, "Technology will allow autonomous cars to drive more safely than people."

Shortly after Volvo announced the survey, 31 percent of 119 respondents replied "agree" to the first question, and 86 percent replied "agree" to the second.

So far, only Google has publicly tested an autonomous car without a steering wheel, and such testing has only occurred at an unused airfield in California - the prototypes have had steering wheels and pedals added for testing on public roads.

Volvo is considered among the leading major automakers - if it's not the leader - in such technology, along with Mercedes-Benz, General Motors' Cadillac division, Nissan and Honda.

Nissan will introduce Piloted Driving 1.0, single-lane traffic assist automation, on all its models sold in Japan in 2016, CEO Carlos Ghosn announced at the Tokyo Motor Show last week. After that, Piloted Driving 2.0 will add merging and the ability of the car to change multiple lanes on a highway, Ghosn said. The systems will roll out in Japan first, with China second, Europe third and the United States fourth.

Meanwhile, Honda announced a system called Target Line Tracing, which compares the most efficient, intended path of a car operating autonomously to the actual path it is taking, and adjusts the actual path accordingly. Target Line Tracing is designed to allow such autonomy to operate safely in wet and slippery conditions. Honda expects the system, as part of a radar- and camera-based Traffic Jam Assist, to make its commercial debut about 2020.