The bizarre methodology was used for more than just laughs.
For over a week, residents of Arlington, Virginia, have noticed a driverless van making its way around the city, but when a few curious individuals approached the car, they found something far stranger than a high-tech vehicle.
They found a guy in a seat costume. And he wasn’t quick to pull back the curtain on whatever charade he was a part of.
Here's me trying to talk to a man in a car seat costume @nbcwashington https://t.co/e5humOM7uS— Adam Tuss (@Adam Tuss) 1502130753.0
This is one of the strangest things I've ever seen @nbcwashington @ARLnowDOTcom https://t.co/8ipKEnkeiq— Adam Tuss (@Adam Tuss) 1502125725.0
While this may look like some low-budget prank for a third-rate cable network, there’s (likely) much more validity to this odd project. The man in the seat costume is part of a study conducted by Virginia Tech on driverless cars, per NBC News. Their report reads:
“[The] Virginia Tech Transportation Institute said Monday afternoon that the van and van driver are part of a study they are conducting on driverless cars. The worker was wearing the uniform he was supposed to wear. “The driver’s seating area is configured to make the driver less visible within the vehicle, while still allowing him or her the ability to safely monitor and respond to surroundings,” a statement from the institute says.”
It’s not explicitly why the group is conducting the research, but many outlets are speculating that the study examines the reactions of drivers and people to the novel sight of a driverless car. CNN reports that the researchers have stated the effort is intended to aid in the design of self-driving cars, though no further details were provided.
Their methods are a little odd, but you have to admire the simplicity of just putting a car seat costume on someone and pretending no one’s driving.