Until now, the public dialogue about self-driving cars has centered mostly on technology, writes Michael Nees, Assistant professor, Lafayette College. The publicâ€™s been led to believe that engineers will soon remove humans from driving. Researchers in the field of human factorsâ€”experts on how people interact with machinesâ€”have shown that we shouldnâ€™t ignore the human element of automated driving.
“When machines take over, the work required of the human is typically not removedâ€”sometimes it is not even reducedâ€”as compared to before the automation was implemented. Rather, the job becomes different. Instead of manual work, the human is relegated to the role of a monitorâ€”one who constantly watches to detect and correct technology failures. The problem is that people are not especially well-suited for this tedious job. Itâ€™s not surprising that drivers retaking manual control from automation need up to 40 seconds to return to normal, baseline driving behaviors.
All of this is not to say that self-driving cars will fail to deliver benefits; they will undoubtedly transform the driving experience. But to develop this promising technology, human factors must be considered.”