Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Tech Keeps Getting Fooled by the Moon, Billboards, and Burger King Signs

The examples described in this article shed light on some of the shortcomings of the AI that drives today’s automated vehicles. Limitations to modern computer vision creates problems in which vehicles confuse one object for another, or fail to identify an object in front of it. Such examples highlight the need for human-centered design that keeps the driver attentive and in the loop. 


Why Study Human Factors? (Alex Arca)

Alex Arca ~ Surface Transportation Lab


” Human Factors is critically important to everyone in how it affects all parts of our lives as it is the key to understanding and improving the interaction between humans and technology. The field of human factors is incredibly diverse in how the field can encompass learning how individuals interact with artificial intelligence to understand how different levels of automation in vehicles can impact drivers, and much more. However, a common tie between any human factors research is how the field strives to understand how to tailor technology to individuals so that their performance will be more efficient, while also taking into account the safety and well being in terms of cognitive and physical effort. This tie can be seen in the realm of driving where  much human factors research in this domain focuses on how distracted driving can impact individuals as well as what ways its hold on individuals can be alleviated. The truth is that technology is invaluable keeping us interconnected and productive, but this technology has its shortcoming in how addictive and attention consuming it can be which is detailed by human factors literature where researchers not only pinpoint how smartphones can impact individuals when driving subjectively, cognitively, and physiologically but also in how to avoid these negative impacts from occurring continuously. Errors when a human is using technology are commonplace and will never go away, but human factors research taps into different ways to improve the technology in terms of usability and effectiveness while also improving the operator of the device in terms of training and expertise. There needs to be improvement from both ends as errors can come from both the user and technology, which is many times disregarded by engineers when creating new technology which is where human factors research comes into save the day. Engineers and human factors specialists work hand in hand to give us the devices and automation we love so much today. With the development and focus today of creating artificial intelligence (AI) to assist our daily lives human factors specialists are needed to understand how much say AI should have in specific tasks as without this research being done critical mistakes can occur endangering lives. This can be seen in the development of self-driving cars, remotely piloted aircrafts, self care robots, and so many more new pieces of technology.  In today’s day an age where new technology comes out everyday, human factors research is needed more than ever to make sure the technology or tool is safe, usable, and effective as most engineers and designers are creating the device to just work without taking these factors into account.”


Key References:

Cabrall, C. D. D., Eriksson, A., Dreger, F., Happee, R., & De Winter, J.. (2019). How to keep drivers engaged while supervising driving automation? A literature survey and categorisation of six solution areas. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, 20(3), 332–365. https://doi.org/10.1080/1463922x.2018.1528484

Gold, C., Körber, M., Lechner, D., & Bengler, K.. (2016). Taking Over Control From Highly Automated Vehicles in Complex Traffic Situations. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 58(4), 642–652. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018720816634226

Kyriakidis, M., De Winter, J. C. F., Stanton, N., Bellet, T., Van Arem, B., Brookhuis, K., Martens, M. H., Bengler, K., Andersson, J., Merat, N., Reed, N., Flament, M., Hagenzieker, M., & Happee, R.. (2019). A human factors perspective on automated driving. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, 20(3), 223–249. https://doi.org/10.1080/1463922x.2017.1293187

Mendoza, J. S., Pody, B. C., Lee, S., Kim, M., & Mcdonough, I. M.. (2018). The effect of cellphones on attention and learning: The influences of time, distraction, and nomophobia. Computers in Human Behavior, 86, 52–60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.04.027

Stothart, C., Mitchum, A., & Yehnert, C. (2015). The attentional cost of receiving a cell phone notification. Journal of experimental psychology. Human perception and performance, 41(4), 893–897. https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000100

Thornton, B., Faires, A., Robbins, M., & Rollins, E.. (2014). The Mere Presence of a Cell Phone May be Distracting. Social Psychology, 45(6), 479–488. https://doi.org/10.1027/1864-9335/a000216

Why Study Human Factors? (John Duany)

John Duany ~ Neurocognition Lab


“A naval officer misinterprets the radar signal of an upcoming aircraft, a programming error causes a nurse to enter the wrong command dispelling a lethal amount of radiation to their patient, the poor training of a nuclear plant power engineer  causes confusion when monitoring the cooling levels of the reactor. All these incidents preceded a catastrophe that could have been avoided had the proper design methodologies been implemented with proper consideration of the human operator. Accidents due to radar malfunction, aircraft failure, or the malfunctioning of hospital equipment are typically attributable to poor human operator performance or faulty system design. The Human factors discipline seeks to bridge the gap between innovative engineering and human performance. In addition to evaluating the performance of small scale systems and singular operators, human factors specialists assist with the design for large-scale systems, such as intelligent surface and air transportation control. My goal as a human factors specialist and researcher is to provide design considerations and training for systems that require careful coordination with a human operator. From complex critical systems that monitor health and transportation to simple systems such as improved packaging design of medical labels, the human factors specialists strive to improve the human condition by understanding the strengths and limitations of the operator. Additionally, novel research and modeling techniques are frequently being developed in our field, such as machine-learning technology and nonlinear dynamics, to better understand human performance in complex and adaptive systems. Neuroscience has also played an integral role in understanding the underlying physiological basis of the operator’s behavior and decision-making. While an operator conducts a complex task requiring mental workload, a human factors researcher can measure their status of executive functioning, memory capacity, and the visual system using electroencephalography (EEG), functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRs), and even functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Finding neurophsyioloigcal differences across different groups (age, sex, health) has  important implications for design considerations that take into account large populations of users with varying physical and mental abilities. This is especially important in the context of surface transportation (driving, boating), operating complex machinery (power plant, air traffic control), and military systems (unmanned aerial vehicles).”


Key References

Balters, S., Baker, J. M., Geeseman, J. W., & Reiss, A. L. (2021). A methodological review of fNIRS in driving research: relevance to the future of autonomous vehicles. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 15.

Barfield, W., & Dingus, T. A. (Eds.). (2014). Human factors in intelligent transportation systems. Psychology Press.

Chan, R. K. C., Lim, J. M. Y., & Parthiban, R. (2021). A neural network approach for traffic prediction and routing with missing data imputation for intelligent transportation system. Expert Systems with Applications, 171, 114573.

Cunningham, M., & Regan, M. A. (2015). Autonomous vehicles: human factors issues and future research. In Proceedings of the 2015 Australasian Road safety conference,14.

Karwowski, W. (2012). A review of human factors challenges of complex adaptive systems: discovering and understanding chaos in human performance. Human factors, 54(6), 983-995.

Linkov, V., Zámečník, P., Havlíčková, D., & Pai, C. W. (2019). Human factors in the cybersecurity of autonomous vehicles: Trends in current research. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 995.

Louie, J. F., & Mouloua, M. (2019). Predicting distracted driving: The role of individual differences in working memory. Applied ergonomics, 74, 154-161.

Mallam, S. C., Lundh, M., & MacKinnon, S. N. (2015). Integrating human factors & ergonomics in large-scale engineering projects: Investigating a practical approach for ship design. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 50, 62-72.

Meshkati, N. (1991). Human factors in large-scale technological systems’ accidents: Three Mile Island, Bhopal, Chernobyl. Industrial Crisis Quarterly, 5(2), 133-154.

Mouloua, M., Ahern, A., Rinalducci, E., Alberti, P., Brill, J. C., & Quevedo, A. (2010, September). The effects of text messaging on driver distraction: A bio-behavioral analysis. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. 54(19), 541-1545. 

Strang, A. J., Horwood, S., Best, C., Funke, G. J., Knott, B. A., & Russell, S. M. (2012). Examining temporal regularity in categorical team communication using sample entropy.

Why Study Human Factors? (James C. Ferraro)

James Ferraro


The reason I believe it is so important to study human factors, and ultimately what drew me to the subject, is the critical role it plays in keeping people safe. As someone who is particularly risk-averse, I was drawn toward a field of study dedicated to reducing human error and eliminating risk. It is an area of study that has existed since engineers had to redesign airplanes in World War II, and tackles issues that will be relevant for years to come, such as how humans interact with artificial intelligence (AI) and robots. Human factors research has been critical in the design of new technologies and devices, accounting for our strengths and weaknesses as human beings to ensure success and prevent negative outcomes. It does not stop at identifying the ‘how’ of an incident or mistake, but seeks to ‘why’ it happened and ‘what’ can be done to prevent a repeat occurrence. This research will continue to be important as the capabilities of technology and AI seem to increase exponentially over time. Human factors researchers studying its application in transportation systems are now solving problems related to automated vehicles driven by automation and AI. Technologies that are far from perfect and still commit some critical (and highly publicized) errors. The shortcomings of modern automated vehicles make the presence of a human at the center of the system essential. Someone still needs to be paying attention to step in when needed and make corrective actions when automation fails. So, from self-driving cars to remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) that are expanding in application by the day, it is critical to understand how to best design systems to optimize human performance. In these situations, human factors research helps solve problems related to loss of situation awareness, fluctuations in workload, and spatial orientation, among other things. These problems appear to be ubiquitous across many complex automated systems, highlighting again how the true extent of the field of human factors cannot be understated. It is an area that will need to receive attention from future designers and engineers as we continue to create machines with increased capabilities. I believe that human factors is (or should be) the foundation upon which any tool or technology is created.”


Key References:

de Winter, J. C. F., & Hancock, P. A. (2021). Why human factors science is demonstrably necessary: historical and evolutionary foundations. Ergonomics, 1-17.

Lee, J. D., & See, K. A. (2004). Trust in automation: Designing for appropriate reliance. Human factors, 46(1), 50-80.

Mouloua, M., Ferraro, J..C., Kaplan, A., Mangos, P., & Hancock, P. A. (2019). Human factors issues regarding trust in UAS operation, selection, and training. In M. Mouloua & P. A. Hancock (Eds.) Human Performance in Automated and Autonomous Systems: Current Theory and Methods. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Mouloua, M., Gilson, R., & Hancock, P. (2003). Human-centered design of unmanned aerial vehicles. Ergonomics in Design, 11(1), 6-11.

Parasuraman, R., Molloy, R., & Singh, I. L. (1993). Performance consequences of automation-induced ‘complacency’. The International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 3(1), 1-23.