Could a Better User Interface Mitigate Automation Addiction?

 - December 23, 2013, 2:35 PM
A team from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society has said that improved user interfaces in the cockpit could counteract pilots’ over-reliance on automation. [Photo: Airbus]

One man and his team think they may have an answer to the problem of over-reliance on automation by pilots who are insufficiently trained to handle an aircraft when the technology falters.

Eric Geiselman, a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), believes user interfaces that take advantage of avionics’ underlying data and logic could enable pilots to better cope with extraordinary circumstances such as the unavailability of ground-based landing aids.

In an article published in the October edition of human factors quarterly publication Ergonomics in Design titled “Flight Deck Automation: A Call for Context-Aware Logic to Improve Safety,” Geiselman calls for a new approach to designing the user interface in cockpits. The article describes prototype designs that could mitigate errors leading to accidents and incidences such as the 2009 Air France Flight 447 crash and the Northwest 188 incident that same year in which the pilots flew past Minneapolis, where they were supposed to have landed.

Geiselman and his colleagues developed a prototype concept for visually displaying the [flight control] inputs of both pilots so each can be aware of the other’s actions.