Odd fake autonomous vehicle in Virginia: Revealed as Ford experiment

Gladys Abbott
September 15, 2017

Now researchers will use this data to understand how other road users changed their behaviour in response to the signals.

The world's worst Transformer has returned as Ford has revealed it was behind the freaky "car seat guy" incident in Arlington, Virginia.

"Understanding how self-driving vehicles impact the world as we know it today is critical to ensuring we're creating the right experience for tomorrow", said John Shutko, Ford's human factors technical specialist.

Ford said the light bar was added to "preview a new global language of sorts, or to set industry standards for autonomous auto communication".

Working with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Ford rigged a Transit Connect with a few extra lights and a drivers seat which allowed the actual person behind the wheel to be hidden from plain sight.

A month or so ago there was widespread reports of a self-driving van in Virginia which turned out to be a normal vehicle with a driver dressed as a car-seat - yep, you read that right. External signals were activated more than 1,650 times at various locations around Arlington, Va., including at intersections, parking lots, garages, airport roadways, and various other locations.

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It fitted a light bar to its van, signalling different actions from the van, testing how autonomous cars may be able to interact with each other, and humans too.

Ford worked with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute on the project and have revealed new details about what exactly they were doing. “We are proud to support Ford in developing this important research.”.

Ford spokesman Alan Hall said the testing, which wrapped up at the end of August, showed that pedestrians generally acted normally and there was no adverse behaviour that would affect the safety of pedestrians or the vehicle, and people did not try to touch or trick the vehicle. Ford is also working on ways to communicate with those who are blind or visually impaired as part of a separate work stream.

Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ford plans to have a fully autonomous vehicle on the road by 2021. Ford employs approximately 203,000 people worldwide. As one of seven premier research institutes created by Virginia Tech to answer national challenges, VTTI is continually advancing transportation through innovation and has impacted public policy on national and worldwide levels.

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