Driver Reactions to Vehicle Automation

Prof David Staton, Chair in Human Factors Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton in the UK visited rCITI on the 4 March 2019 and provided a presentation on his paper  “From fly-by-wire to drive-by-wire: Safety implications for automation in vehicle”, which was originally published in 1996 in the journal Safety Science.  Prof. Stanton predicted many of the kinds of problems we are starting to see with vehicle automation, including shortfalls in the expected benefits of automation, problems related to equipment reliability, problems related to training and skills maintenance and error-inducing designs (such as mode error).

Over the past two decades, Prof Stanton and his research team have been testing the effects of automated driving on drivers - in simulators, on test-tracks, as well as on open roads. These studies have revealed that drivers of automated vehicles are less able to respond in an emergency than when driving manually. Prof Stanton asserts that the role of monitoring automation continuously with the task of intervening only very occasionally is (almost) impossible for drivers to undertake effectively (particularly for an extended duration).  In fact, if drivers attempt to monitor as they are expected to do, it actually places greater mental demand on them than driving manually.  In any case, they cannot sustain this level of attention for long.  What happens in reality is that drivers adopt a more passive ‘passenger’ mentality, and start engaging with other tasks and devices in their vehicles.   Watching vehicle automation for any extended period is very boring.  These studies have led Prof Stanton and his team to the conclusion that partially automated driving (where the driver is expected to monitor and intervene) is a bad idea.  In this provocative presentation, he presnted some of his research team’s studies in simulators and on UK roads to explain why partially automated vehicles crash.

Professor Neville A Stanton, PhD, DSc, is a Chartered Psychologist, Chartered Ergonomist and Chartered Engineer. He has degrees in Occupational Psychology, Applied Psychology and Human Factors Engineering and has worked at the Universities of Aston, Brunel, Cornell and MIT.  His research interests include modelling, predicting, analysing and evaluating human performance in systems as well as designing the interfaces and interaction between humans and technology.  Professor Stanton has worked on design of automobiles, aircraft, ships and control rooms over the past 30 years, on a variety of automation projects.  He has published 40 books and over 300 journal papers on Ergonomics and Human Factors.  He has received numerous awards and in 2014 the University of Southampton awarded him a Doctor of Science for his sustained contribution to the development and validation of Human Factors methods.

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