Economy

Ford disguised an engineer as a seat for science

Ford disguised an engineer as a seat for science”

After being first reported by ARLnow.com, and famously further investigated by NBC4 reporter Adam Tuss - who was startled to discover a person in a seat costume inside - VT admitted it was behind the driverless vehicle.

Ford teamed up with researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to put a man in seat suit - a costume created to look like a auto seat - inside a van outfitted to look like an autonomous vehicle. Mainly because you actually still do need to have someone behind the wheel in real-world testing, and also because for the purposes of this experiment, Ford and VTTI didn't actually need a self-driving vehicle - they just needed people to believe wholeheartedly they were using one.

Ford and Virginia Tech are trying to develop a method by which self-driving cars will interact with people with whom they share streets.

"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.

The driverless van spotted around Virginia last month was testing more than just how people reacted to a vehicle with no one behind the wheel.

Ford disguised an engineer as a seat for science

Instead, they settled on visual signals from a light bar placed on the windshield of a Ford Transit Van.

Three different light signals were used to indicate the auto meant to yield (two white lights moving side to side), when it was engaged in active autonomous driving (solid white light), and when it was starting to go (a rapidly blinking white light to indicate the vehicle is about to accelerate from a stop).

The project also tested technology Ford is working on to help self-driving cars communicate with pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers around them.

With every major auto manufacturer and big tech firms like Amazon and Google developing autonomous vehicles, the goal is to create some kind of industry standard that can be applied around the world. Ford and Virginia Tech then devised three signals to alert people to the car's behavior: two white lights moving side-to-side for when the vehicle is coming to a stop, a solid white light when the auto is driving, and a rapidly blinking white light to indicate it's about to start moving again. Enter the seat suit: Virginia Tech devised an apparatus that resembles the bucket seats in a Transit Connect van, which a driver then donned before rolling through Arlington testing out the signals.

The company collected data from cameras mounted on the outside of the study vehicle.



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