Baidu, the most popular search engine in China, has revealed it is also working on automated vehicles, but, unlike its western equivalent Google, it wants drivers to maintain the option of control.

The deputy director of Baidu's Institute of Deep Learning, Kai Yu, told The Next Web he envisions a future where drivers can sit back and enjoy the ride or take the wheel themselves.

He said: "This is actually an intelligent assistant collecting data from road situations and then operating locally.

"We don't call this a driverless car. I think a car should be helping people, not replacing people, so we call this a highly autonomous car."

Like a horse

Yu told the site its approach was deliberately different to the one being pioneered by Google in the United States.

Unlike Google's vehicles, Baidu's cars will have a steering wheel, accelerator and break pedal, rather than the sensors and software used by Google.

"Philosophically we have a fundamental difference to look at this type of things," he added.

"I think in the future, a car should not totally replace the driver but should really give the driver freedom. Freedom means the car is intelligent enough to operate by itself, like a horse, and make decisions under different road situations. Whenever the driver wants to resume control, you can do that. It's like riding on a horse, rather than just sitting in a car where you only have a button."

The company's first partially self-driving prototype cars will be shown off in 2015. Which side of the driver-less debate do you sit on? Take the wheel in the comments section below.