Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Staying on task is difficult in the automated cockpit

Date:
May 6, 2014
Source:
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Summary:
A new study indicates that pilots may have a hard time concentrating on the automated systems that now carry out many of the tasks once completed by humans. Pilots reported an increase in big-picture flight-related thoughts when using higher levels of automation, but when the flight was progressing according to plan and pilots were not interacting with the automation, their thoughts were more likely to wander.

Automation in the cockpit is traditionally believed to free pilots' attention from mundane flight tasks and allow them to focus on the big picture or prepare for any unexpected events during flight. However, a new study published in Human Factors indicates that pilots may have a hard time concentrating on the automated systems that now carry out many of the tasks once completed by humans.

Related Articles


"The automated systems in today's cockpits assume many of the tasks formerly performed by human pilots and do it with impressive reliability," says Stephen Casner, coauthor of "Thoughts in Flight: Automation Use and Pilots' Task-Related and Task-Unrelated Thought" and research psychologist at NASA's Ames Research Center. "This leaves pilots to watch over the automation as it does its work, but people can only concentrate on something uneventful for so long. Humans aren't robots. We can't stare at a green light for hours at a stretch without getting tired, bored, or going crazy."

Researchers Casner and coauthor Jonathan Schooler designed a flight simulation study in which they asked pilots to follow a published arrival procedure into New York's busy John F. Kennedy International Airport. As the pilots navigated the flight, they were asked about what they were thinking during various levels of automation and to assign their thoughts to three categories: the specific task at hand, higher-level thoughts (for example planning ahead), or thoughts unrelated to the flight (e.g., what's for dinner).

The pilots reported an increase in big-picture flight-related thoughts when using higher levels of automation, but when the flight was progressing according to plan and pilots were not interacting with the automation, their thoughts were more likely to wander.

"The mind is restless," says Schooler, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "When we're not given something specific to think about, we come up with something else to think about."

"Pilots limited their off-task thoughts to times in which the automation was doing the flying and all was going according to plan," adds Casner. "Nevertheless, there seem to be potential costs to situations in which pilots disengage from a highly-automated task. What happens when something suddenly goes amiss after long periods of uneventful flight?"

The study's authors concluded that although automation frees pilots' minds from tedious tasks and enables them to focus on the overall flight, it might inadvertently encourage them to devote time to unrelated thoughts. Casner notes that on the basis of these findings, researchers studying cockpit automation might consider rethinking the interaction between humans and machines.

"As technology grows in capability, we seem to be taking the approach of using humans as safety nets for computers," he says. "We need to sort out the strengths and weaknesses of both humans and computers and think of work environments that combine and exploit the best features of both to keep humans meaningfully engaged in their work."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. M. Casner, J. W. Schooler. Thoughts in Flight: Automation Use and Pilots' Task-Related and Task-Unrelated Thought. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 2013; 56 (3): 433 DOI: 10.1177/0018720813501550

Cite This Page:

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. "Staying on task is difficult in the automated cockpit." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140506142112.htm>.
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. (2014, May 6). Staying on task is difficult in the automated cockpit. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140506142112.htm
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. "Staying on task is difficult in the automated cockpit." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140506142112.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Microsoft Adds Robot Guards, Ushers In Sci-Fi Apocalypse

Microsoft Adds Robot Guards, Ushers In Sci-Fi Apocalypse

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Microsoft has robotic security guards working at its Silicon Valley Campus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Toyota presented its hydrogen fuel-cell compact car called "Mirai" to US consumers at the Los Angeles auto show. The car should go on sale in 2015 for around $60.000. It combines stored hydrogen with oxygen to generate its own power. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) In a blog post, Google said its balloons have traveled 3 million kilometers since the start of Project Loon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

AP (Nov. 21, 2014) Marine Corps officials say a special operations officer left paralyzed by a sniper's bullet in Afghanistan walked using robotic leg braces in a ceremony to award him a Bronze Star. (Nov. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins