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Honda's cutesy CES concept shows self-driving cars don't mean giving up control

A reinvented steering wheel is the highlight of this futuristic concept car.

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Honda Augmented Driving Concept

Look at this cute thing.

Honda
This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

The thought of giving up control in the car, frankly, scares people. Honda sees this, and it hopes to calm those nerves with what it calls the Augmented Driving Concept.

Making its debut at CES 2020, the concept car looks a bit like a cross between a Honda E electric car and a convertible. It wears the same innocent-looking face as previous Honda concepts with big round eyes and a small footprint overall. The design isn't the story, though -- It's the reinvented steering wheel. 

The cockpit features room for the driver/passenger and a strange disc ahead of them. Honda said this steering wheel controls everything. To start the car, pat the steering wheel twice. Want to slow down? Pull the wheel inward. More acceleration? Push it away. There are no pedals present.

The wheel gives the passive driver the opportunity to still control the car when they want, but the fully autonomous system is always online and ready to control the car at a moment's notice. The automaker said there are eight modes for the driver-passenger to take advantage of and find the right balance between manually steering the car and letting the car do its own thing.

It's honestly not a poor way to approach things. Few enjoy driving when it entails stop and go traffic or a mundane commute. More people like driving when it's fun and creates an enjoyable experience. The Augmented Driving Concept could be a "just right" approach to future technology. Honda told Roadshow that this concept is meant to address the technological and cultural transition self-driving car will inevitably bring.

Originally published Dec. 20.