Driver in a 'Seat Suit' Startles Pedestrians in the Name of Science

Ford's recent YouTube upload of pedestrians reacting to a Transit van that appears to have no driver may look like one of those prank shows, but it's not.

The driver is camouflaged in a "seat suit" costume as part of a joint research effort between Ford and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. They are studying how people react to driverless cars, and developing a system of communication to replace traditional hand-wave gestures.

"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, technical specialist in charge of Ford's Human Factors projects. "We need to solve for the challenges presented by not having a human driver, so designing a way to replace the head nod or hand wave is fundamental to ensuring safe and efficient operation of self-driving vehicles in our communities."

Fully self-driving cars may be coming to Rock Springs as soon as 2021, if Ford's research stays on schedule.

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