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Self-driving car company scouts DC

A self-driving car drove around D.C. on Sunday.

WASHINGTON -- A blue Ford sedan turned a few heads Sunday afternoon in DC's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Locals noticed on the side of the car a label that read "self-driving test vehicle."

A company named Argo AI had parked the car near the corner of 15th and C Streets SE. Argo AI, a Pittsburgh company, is working to bring fully autonomous vehicles to the nation's streets.

Hunter Sentz, an employee at the nearby Pretzel Bakery, spotted the car from his store.

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"This SUV pulled up and it had a rig strapped to the front of it with its camera attached and it kind of caught everyone's attention that was in the store," he said. "So, on a break, I went over there and asked them what was going on and they just told me they were shooting promotional footage for Ford's new driverless car."

A spokesperson for the company, Alan Hall, said the car in Capitol Hill was an autonomous test vehicle. However, it was not in autonomous mode.

"The scout vehicle is manually driven, by a human," he said.

Hall said the car was being used to scout DC's roads and infrastructure.

"This is a normal part of our process to help determine what cities we should expand into for autonomous vehicle testing," he said.

Ford Motor Company is working with Argo AI to help further develop autonomous vehicle technology. Hall said, by the end of the year, the companies will announce the next city that they plan to test their vehicles in.

He said Sunday was the first time the company had scouted DC.

Some local residents said while autonomous vehicle technology is unique, they are not necessarily opposed to it being on the roads.

"I might feel more scared of self driving cars if regular human driving cars weren't so dangerous as it is," said Capitol Hill resident Jim Spellman. "I mean, the way people are texting and driving fast in so much traffic, maybe they'll be safer."

WUSA9 reached out to both DDOT and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development about Argo AI, but have yet to hear back.

The District of Columbia has shown interest in self-driving cars in the past.

In February, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the establishment of a new "Autonomous Vehicle Working Group" to help prepare the city for the emerging technology.

Around that same time, the Southwest Business Improvement District also released a Request for Information for an autonomous vehicle pilot program to be set up in the L'Enfant Plaza area.

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