ROCKLEIGH, New Jersey — As Volvo edges closer to its goal of having 100 autonomous vehicles on the road by 2017, the automaker is asking consumers for their opinions about the technology in a new online survey called The Future of Driving.
"Today, we would like to hear your thoughts about the future and how you see autonomous driving as a possible new part of your life," writes Volvo president and CEO Hakan Samuelsson on the survey website. "Your answers in this debate will influence central strategy of Volvo's autonomous-driving program."
The Volvo survey is yet another example of automakers and tech giants tinkering with self-driving cars and how potential buyers are reacting to them.
Google's October monthly report on its self-driving car project noted that it asked kids in Halloween costumes to "hang out around our parked cars."
"This gives our sensors and software extra practice at recognizing children in all their unique shapes and sizes, even when they're in odd costumes," Google said.
Google's autonomous cars have logged 1.3 million miles on the road.
The new Volvo survey presents a series of statements and asks respondents to click Agree or Disagree as they proceed through the exercise.
Some of the statements relate to safety: Technology will allow autonomous cars to drive more safely than people; having more autonomous cars on the road will eliminate traffic accidents; an autonomous car would protect me from poor drivers.
Others deal with perception: Autonomous cars are merely science fiction; a car being driven autonomously should look the same as other cars on the road; I will look forward to my daily autonomous journeys.
And still others range a bit more widely: I would be comfortable in an autonomous car without a steering wheel; current laws are not ready to deal with autonomous cars; car manufacturers, not car owners, must take responsibility if an accident occurs when a car is driving autonomously.
Since the survey is still open it may be too early to draw conclusions, but so far it seems that consumers appear to be interested, and even enthusiastic, while still remaining skeptical.
For example, thus far, half of respondents think autonomous vehicles will make their lives easier, and 61 percent believe they'll be safer than human drivers. But 90 percent say they still want to enjoy the manual driving experience on occasion, and the same number are concerned that current laws are not ready for driverless cars.
As previously reported by Edmunds, the Volvo Drive Me program is a plan to have 100 self-driving cars being tested on 30 miles of public roads around the company's headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, within the next two years.
The kicker is, Drive Me intends to do something Volvo says has never been done before: put these autonomous vehicles in the hands of ordinary consumers, rather than test drivers. And that seems to make The Future of Driving a particularly relevant survey.
Edmunds says: Now consumers can make their voices heard on the subject of self-driving cars, while perhaps influencing Volvo's future development plans.