theverge.com - 10 days ago
Ford hid a man inside a car seat to test reactions to self-driving cars
In early August, the transportation reporter at Arlington, Virginia’s NBC affiliate filmed a video as he approached a Ford Transit van that appeared to be piloted by a man dressed up as the front seat of a car.
Despite the fact that the man’s hands were clearly poking out of the costume, and the reporter’s earnest prompt of “I’m with the news, dude,” there were no apparent answers. The video went appropriately viral, and only then was it uncovered that this wasn’t just a goof, it was a test being performed by Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute. Now, it turns out, Ford was in on it, too. A post on Ford’s Self-Driven blog details how the company, which has been funding the project over at VTTI, was using this ruse to learn about how pedestrians and other drivers will respond to self-driving cars. A main focus of the project is the mysterious light bar that stretches across the van’s windshield. While some guessed it was a LIDAR sensor, or some other such self-driving tech, Ford and VTTI are using it to experiment with how to communicate an autonomous car’s intentions to the people around it. So far, Ford has come up with a simple set of animations: when the lights blink fast, it’s a sign that the van is about to accelerate away from a stop.
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