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Ford Brings Back Wacky Human Car Seat Suit for AV Testing

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Ford Human Car Seat Suit
Photo: Ford Motor Company

As part of its push to bring self-driving vehicles to the market, Ford is in the process of developing a communication interface that will effectively allow driverless autonomous vehicles to indicate intention to other motorists. To further the development of this language, Ford has brought back one of its quirkier methods of testing: the Human Car Seat.

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Ford in 2017 teamed with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to put a human driver in a costume that resembles a car seat, making a Ford Transit Connect appear to be driving itself. The reason for the experiment was to see how other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians interacted with the Transit Connect with respect to a light bar that communicates its intention.

Ford Human Car Seat Suit
Photo: Ford Motor Company

The latest experiment took place in Germany in collaboration with Chemnitz University of Technology. Ford Europe tasked a journalist with donning the Human Car Seat suit and hitting the road so as to test the effectiveness of the roof-mounted light bar. Per Ford, 60 percent of the 173 individuals surveyed after encountering the Transit Connect were under the impression it was a self-driving vehicle, and the reactions of more than 1,600 who interacted with the vehicle suggested the preference for turquoise lighting over white or purple.

“Making eye contact is important — but our study showed that first and foremost road users look to see what a vehicle is doing. The next step is to look at how we might ensure the light signals can be made clearer and more intuitive to everyone,” said Dr. Matthias Beggiato, Department of Psychology at Chemnitz University of Technology.

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