Human-automation teamwork : Current practices and future directions in air traffic control

Abstract: This dissertation explores the topic of human-automation teamwork in Air Traffic Control (ATC). ATC is a high stakes environment where complex automation is being introduced while the human operator has the legal responsibility. With increasing demands on productivity in various industries (as also in ATC), automation is introduced for efficiency, maintaining safety, and to keep the workload of the human operator within acceptable limits. However, previous research has shown that automation may cause negative effects on the human operator and performance, such as forcing the operator out of the control loop, which might lead to problems or confusion. Previous research suggests a need for strengthening human-automation collaboration where automation is seen as a team member to keep the operator in the loop. In order to achieve such teamwork, the design of the automation needs to be human-centred, i.e. that the automation is designed for the underlying need of the operator.The aim of this dissertation is to explore teamwork in ATC from several angles to understand how the air traffic controllers are working in current ATC environments and how automation could be designed to support human-automation teamwork. The included studies rely on interviews, simulations, and questionnaires, all with operational air traffic controllers as participants.The results indicate that for both human-human teamwork and human-automation teamwork, teamwork factors such as adaptability and mutual performance monitoring (knowing what the other team members are doing) are important for the work performance in current ATC environments, where mutual performance monitoring is especially important during stressful situations.When designing automation, lessons learned from human-human teamwork should be considered. The work within the scope of this dissertation identifies and concerns two human-automation teamwork aspects: boundary awareness and implicit communication. These are proposed to support the operator’s knowledge about the automation and the communication flow between the operator and the automation. Boundary awareness is the operator’s knowledge of the automation’s abilities, its boundaries (what it can or cannot manage), and about consequences if it would go outside of these boundaries. Implicit communication is the unspoken or implied small cues that the operator and the automation can use to communicate with each other. It is proposed that implicit communication can be based on the work patterns of the operator. The knowledge gained through the work in this dissertation can be used as a foundation for further research and design of automation regarding operator knowledge about the automation boundaries and the communication within the team.

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