The researchers behind the illusion, which went viral last month, explain how the plan was actually to see how people react to self-driving vehicles

In early August residents of Arlington, Virginia, spotted an unmarked silver Ford Transit van cruising around town without a human behind the wheel.

Local news publication ARLnow caught the ghostly vehicle on camera and speculated that it was part of Virginia Tech’s autonomous driving research. A couple of days later, NBC reporter Adam Tuss approached the vehicle on foot and peered inside, only to see hands poking out from the driver’s seat holding the steering wheel. The “driverless” car had a driver – but he was disguised as a car seat.

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