Given that sales of its performance models have risen 60% in the past couple of years - propelled by Focus RS and Mustang - it's easy to understand why Ford in Europe should be concerned about the currently fashionable driverless cars "taking over".

They're very concerned, it emerges, to the extent that last night, on the eve of whole raft of new autonomous models' debut at the Geneva motor show, they staged a panel debate involving some well-known proponents of driving pleasure, plus an autonomous expert of their own.

The debate, which took place at the preview of the promising new 1.5-litre Fiesta ST, was chaired by Top Gear star Chris Harris (late of Autocar) and featured Goodwood's Lord Charles March, Dave Pericak (the Ford Performance chief billed as Ford's "chief petrolhead"), Ford GT works driver Andy Priaulx and Ford COO Steve Armstrong, billed as Ford's leading in-house advocate of driverless cars. The promoter of the debate was Ford's European president and CEO, Jim Farley, under whose management the performance car expansion has taken place.

The outcome was fairly predictable. Lord March couldn't imagine autonomous cars at his Goodwood Festival of Speed, his main priority, and noted the rising popularity even among young people of interest in historic car competition, Dave Pericak loyally supported moves to autonomy, though he was convinced we'd be allowed to drive for a long time yet.

Andy Priaulx reckoned he could see the point in traffic jams, but would back himself for ultimate speed against a computer anytime, and Steve Armstrong talked the mist sense by suggesting we'd be able to drive when we wanted, but in traffic jams and boring situations it made sense to let the car do it, especially (as was strongly indicated) it was safer.

Nobody seemed to imagine a day when a car wouldn't be under some kind of driver control. Dave Pericak summed things up for everyone with one succinct observation. "Autonomy isn't a replacement for the driver," he said. "It's an enhancement to our lives." It made sense to everyone.

2017 Ford Fiesta ST officially revealed

Read more about the Geneva motor show here