At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, Peugeot unveiled its Instinct Concept vehicle. The concept contains some interesting ideas with regards to the friction between the gradual introduction of semi-autonomous driver assist features and the jump to full autonomy.

As most engineers in the field recognize, the expectation that drivers can take over control of a self-driving car in the event of an emergency is problematic given the slowness of human response times and the speed at which vehicles generally drive. That’s led many companies in the field, such as Google’s Waymo, and most recently Ford, to conclude that driverless vehicles should be fully autonomous, without pedals or steering wheels.

Of course looking into the far future, it’s easy to imagine a world in which hardly anyone ever drives and most people wouldn’t even know how. In that world most vehicles could fit that mold. But of course we must also imagine what the world will be like between now and then. In this transitional phase, fully autonomous vehicles might not be appropriate for every situation. It might be necessary for some trips to require a human driver as the technology is being perfected and the necessary crowdsourced data collection is being completed.

Perhaps just as important as transitioning the technology will be transitioning the drivers. Having grown up in a world where driving automobiles symbolized the freedom of the open road, many of us alive today actually enjoy driving. Sure, we’ll be happy to cede our bumper-to-bumper commutes to machines that can drive us while we snooze or work. But for quite some time we’ll likely want to retain control of our scenic Sunday drives and our vacation road trips.

To address these concerns of the near-future transition to driverless cars, the Instinct concept introduces the notion of driving modes. The vehicle does include pedals and a steering wheel in the driver cockpit, but they fold away for autonomous driving. Two different autonomous modes are imagined – “Autonomous Soft” mode will prioritize a smooth comfortable ride, allowing the passengers to sleep, while “Autonomous Sharp” mode will prioritize speed for when they would prefer to arrive at their destination as quickly as possible.

In addition, there are two active driving modes – “Drive Boost” will prioritize performance for those times when the driver wants a track day, and “Drive Relax” will engage some of the semi-autonomous driver assist technologies for times when the driver would prefer to daydream and sightsee but still maintain primary control of the driving functions. As you might expect, for both autonomous and active driving, the car interior adapts to the selected mode, adjusting the seats, lighting and other features accordingly.

Of course, this notion of driving modes still requires the technology to arrive at full Level 5 autonomy in order to work. But it’s still a clever way to adapt the existing vehicle sales model to the introduction of fully driverless vehicles in the near term. Peugeot claims this concept could be ready for production as early as 2025, which seems reasonable considering that numerous carmakers promise to have fully autonomous vehicles on the road by 2021.

For more details of the Instinct concept vehicle, including way more photos of the vehicle at MWC, check out these posts by The Verge’s Amar Toor and Techcrunch’s .

image source: Peugeot