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Change detection support for supervisory controllers of highly automated systems : Effects on performance, mental workload, and recovery of situation awareness following interruptions

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Author: Kleij, R. van der · Hueting, T.F. · Schraagen, J.M.C.
Source:International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 66, 75-84
Identifier: 787794
doi: doi:10.1016/j.ergon.2018.02.010
Keywords: Dynamic positioning · Human-automation collaboration · Management-by-exception · Out-of-the-loop (OOTL) performance problem · Situation Awareness Recovery (SAR) · Automation · Controllers · Recovery · Sailing vessels · Adaptive operators · Automated systems · Controlled process · Maritime environment · Performance problems · Situation awareness · Supervisory controllers · Process control · Adult · Automation · Change detection support · Computer simulation · decision making · Dynamic positioning system · Ergonomics · Female · Human · Human computer interaction · Human experiment · Human supervisory controller · Information processing · Male · Management · Mental workload · Priority journal · Dupervised machine learning · Task performance · Work environment · Workload


Dynamic Positioning (DP) is a computer-controlled process to automatically keep a floating vessel at a specific position or to follow a pre-defined path (tracking) by using its own propellers and thrusters. The human supervisory controller has no direct need to constantly know what the status is of all parts of the automation and the system it is controlling, because the highly automated DPS is controlling all components itself. Only after a failure arises, the operator needs to take over manual control and take appropriate action(s) to prevent the failure from harming the operation. As the supervisory controller may be out of the loop, swiftly taking over control may be problematic when failures arise. The purpose of the current study was to investigate whether automation of change detection enables human operators with low awareness of the automation and the system it is controlling to quickly recover awareness in emergency take-over situations. A 2 by 2 within subjects experiment was conducted using a DP simulation (n = 22). Within-subjects factors were support (Yes, No) and interruption (Yes, No). Results showed that change detection support helps in the process of recovering situation awareness after it has been reduced, due to an interruption of the primary task of overseeing the automation. Interestingly, support was not beneficial to the participants in all conditions. In non-interrupted conditions the support unexpectedly resulted in higher workload, raising questions whether supervisory controllers should be supported continuously or only when it is required. Relevance to industry: The results show that change detection support has potential value in operational maritime environments, especially in situations where the DP operator has low situation awareness. Future research should investigate whether adaptive aiding could alleviate some of the negative effects of non-adaptive operator support in maritime environments. © 2018