Department of Information Technology

The Automatic Future

At the Department of Information Technology, research is conducted on how technical systems can be safely and efficiently automated in different areas, but also on what the human role should be in these systems and how to maintain control over highly automated systems.

While an airplane pilot in a best-case scenario has several minutes to respond to and solve an emergency at high altitude, the driver of a car or truck is more likely to have just a few seconds to avoid a serious accident on our roads. In the light of this it is perhaps not that surprising that autopilots have been around for decades in aviation but have not yet made its entry into cars and trucks. The task of automating a car pose interesting challenges, warranting the further development of the technical systems that control the automation, while also challenging the design of the interaction between people and technology. If an emergency arise that an automated system cannot solve, a person who understands what is happening need to be present and ready to assume manual control.

Researchers at the Department of Information Technology develop technologies and knowledge enabling increased automation of e.g. trucks, industrial robots, and train traffic. The work include the development and application of theories and methods both for ensuring that the automation operate as intended, as well as for understanding how humans can operate automated systems safely and efficiently.

However, even when the automated technical systems work as intended, a few other questions are raised. If the driver of a typical future car never get to actually drive but is merely expected to enter a destination and press start, can the driver be expected to assume manual control in a critical situation and avert an accident? How will a future driver's license test be designed if the driver only has a role in situations that the autopilot cannot handle? For professionals such as airplane pilots for commercial airlines and operators of nuclear power plants, training in simulators is included as a major and essential part of ensuring that critical situations can be resolved safely. Something similar might be reasonable for professional drivers, but how would it be if regular training in simulators became a requirement for everyone with a driver's license?

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Updated  2016-12-07 12:19:03 by Peter Waites.