A self-driving car with no humans on board being tested on the streets of Arlington, Virginia turned out to be operated by a man who was disguised as a car seat. But it was genuine research rather than a prank.
While Virginia Tech university has been testing autonomous vehicle technology on specified interstates and highways, the vehicle in question was driving on city streets.
That didn’t necessarily rule out it being a legitimate driverless car as the state has relatively relaxed rules on testing the technology. However, in hindsight it was somewhat suspicious that the car didn’t have any visible external cameras or sensors, instead simply having a blinking light bar and what appeared to be cameras behind the windshield.
Adam Tuss of the local NBC affiliate discovered the truth when he found and approached the vehicle to discover a man wearing a costume that matched the other seats in the car, driving with his hands kept low under the wheel. The man then drove off without comment.
While it would be an elaborate prank (and one that’s been pulled before), it turns out the man was indeed carrying out research for Virginia Tech. Rather than testing the vehicle itself, he was gauging the reactions of other drivers to seeing the apparently empty vehicle.
— Adam Tuss (@AdamTuss) August 7, 2017