How Drive Thru Pranks Influenced Ford’s Autonomous Car Research

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While legislators around the world are laying the ground work to make fully level-5 autonomous vehicles road legal without a human at the wheel, it’s going to take some time before we see fully autonomous cars on the road without a licensed driver behind the wheel supervising the vehicle.

But that fact makes it difficult for autonomous vehicle researchers to develop proper pedestrian and road user interface systems for autonomous cars, since examining the interaction between a self-driving car and other road users is completely different when there’s someone at the wheel — even if that person isn’t technically driving.

But a team of researchers at Virginia Tech, working alongside Ford have successfully studied interaction between the public and autonomous vehicles on the public highway without breaking the law. How? By following the the world of Internet YouTube pranks.

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