Even though autonomous vehicles have become more prevalent in California and are gaining traction as a potential way to cut down on the alarming number of accidents caused by human error. Despite that fact, many members of the public just aren’t comfortable yet with the idea of seeing a car with no driver in it. That’s why some San Diego scientists are looking for a way to test whether people have gotten more used to the concept in recent months.

Scientists at UC San Diego are disguising themselves as empty car seats and driving around the university’s location in order to elicit reactions from pedestrians and other motorists. The drivers are wearing head to knee seat covers that hide their bodies completely. The scientists are seeking permission from the school to be able to experiment across campus or even on the streets of La Jolla.

The purpose of the study is part of an effort to develop autonomous vehicles and trucks that are safe and researchers involved in the study believe that this is the first step in teaching people how to react to cars without any drivers. Don Norman, who has handled the project as Director of the UC San Diego Design Lab, is testing the perspective of cars that appear to have no driver. He and other researchers believe that it is important how pedestrians and other road users will interact with autonomous cars and when it will become normal for them to see a car that is not driven by a person.

A similar vehicle study was put together by Stanford in situations where people interact with computer systems that they believe to be autonomous. The computer was actually a vehicle driven by a researcher who was hidden by the car seat costume. The vehicle carried equipment and signs that identified it as an autonomous car and had interactions with 67 pedestrians. Many pedestrians and other drivers did not even notice that there was no driver in the car.

For car accident victims, it can be overwhelming to realize that their San Diego was crash preventable. The costs associated with recovering from an accident can be catastrophic and life-changing for a victim as well as his or her family members.