"That's no moon…", Obi-Wan said as his motley band of rebels neared the Death Star.

And, it turns out, this is no driverless car. Instead, it seems some inspiration has been taken from the many memes of people hiding inside seats, or even more elaborately dressed as a seat.

The story, as unravelled by NBCWashington.com, is that the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute decided it would undertake a study of how everyday motorists would respond to an autonomous vehicle moving among them, with no occupants.

Of course, that isn't yet legal. So, Virginia Tech did the only obvious next-best-thing: They dressed a dude as a car seat and had him drive around the city of Arlington - and monitored the reactions of others in traffic.

As you do.

The idea was that, at a glance, most bystanders wouldn't realise the vehicle had a driver - and it seems to have worked, with news of the supposedly driverless Ford Transit Connect making its way around social media this week.

Adam Tuss, a reporter with NBC Washington, did the savvy thing and chased the car around town until he could pull up alongside and peer in, and that's when the gig was up.

"Brother, who are you? What are you doing?" Tuss asked. And a fair question to ask.

Virginia Tech, presumably satisfied it had collected enough data, finally came clean this week, telling NBC in a statement of the plan.

"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.

The project had Arlington County approval, thankfully, and an official told the news that it had taken part because the area is "representative of the urban areas for which automated vehicles are currently being considered".

It seems the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Arlington Police Department weren't in on the secret, though, with both described as "shocked" at the news.

Just another day in our journey to The Future…

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