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Driverless van
A van in Arlington, Va., being used by Virginia Tech as part of a study on driverless technology. (Twitter Photo via @AdamTuss)

As a trusted journalist with years of experience in the profession, I never thought about just saying, “I’m with the news, dude,” as a way to get a subject to talk. But my tactics might change after watching reporter Adam Tuss in action.

Tuss, with NBC’s News4 out of Washington, D.C., was on the trail of what appeared to be a driverless vehicle in Arlington, Va., on Monday. Autonomous vehicle technology on public roadways is still a pretty big deal, so Tuss was certainly chasing a worthy story.

Videos by Tuss on Twitter did indeed appear to show a grey 2017 Ford Transit Connect heading down rainy streets in the Virginia suburb with no one behind the wheel. Tuss and a colleague followed the van for 20 minutes, according to a story on NBC Washington.

But when Tuss approached the stopped vehicle, he discovered that a human was doing the driving. And that human was disguised like one of the van’s seats, operating the steering wheel through the bottom of the “costume.”

“Brother, who are you? What are you doing? I’m with the news, dude,” Tuss said. “Dude, can you pull over and we can talk for a second?”

The driver’s seat didn’t reply, but Tuss tracked down the answers he was looking for when the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute replied to inquiries and said Monday that the van and driver are part of a study being conducted around driverless cars.

“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,” the institute said in a statement to News4.

Virginia Tech provides more information online about what it hopes to achieve with the study, including “studying human behavior in the presence of new technology in the real world.”

Seems like this TV reporter just provided some valuable data.

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