Human factors and ethical considerations associated with automation

LKAB, transporting iron ore from Kiruna, Sweden to both the Baltic and Atlantic coasts, is just one of the heavy-haul freight railways investing in increased levels of automation. 
Photo Bombardier Transportation.

Automation and autonomous systems are currently getting a great deal of publicity. In road transport there is a lot of ‘work in progress’ on autonomous vehicles, and driverless technology ‘start ups’ have been snapped up by the new technology majors such as Google. In air, the recent tragic losses of two nearly new Boeing 737 MAX airliners with significant loss of life has generated a lot of attention. The update of a decades-old design relied on a degree of new control automation. In rail, metros are increasingly automated with fully driverless systems now common and main line rail is moving to implement systems such as Automatic Train Operation (ATO) to improve capacity and reliability.

Whilst these changes are driven by undoubted benefits there are also risks that need to be carefully analysed and managed. This paper explores some of the current developments in automation in air, rail and road transport, and the ethical and human factors issues associated with the various Grades of Automation (GoA).

For the full version of this article, Prepared on behalf of the International Technical Committee by Rod Muttram, as published in IRSE News Issue 257 use the download link below.

Published by IRSE ITC

The IRSE ITC (Institution of Railway Signal Engineers - International Technical Committee) provides an International and Independent perspective on Railway Control, Command and Signalling (CCS) by a group of widely recognised experts, to both IRSE members and the signalling community worldwide.

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