Autonomous vehicles are bringing a very different new reality in road traffic. However, human factors will remain present both in the near future and in the long term, because of the:
– mixed traffic of autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles during the long transition phases (different at the different places of the world),
– the interaction with not easily automatable traffic of pedestrians, cyclists and power two-wheelers,
– the vehicles with dual control (human and autonomous),
– human factors of the scientists developing and programming the autonomous vehicles and the autonomous transport systems (infrastructure, traffic, etc.).
Road safety human factors research should evolve to take into account the new realities and assist the proper development of the autonomous vehicles and transport systems. This research should be evolving rapidly to follow the rapid changes in vehicle automation and it should be much more data analysis oriented as automation makes available a wealth of data. Comparing the road user behaviour with the behaviour of the autonomous vehicles requires extensive big data analysis in the various phases of the introduction of autonomous vehicles into the traffic.
For the appropriate management of the co-existence of autonomous and non-autonomous traffic several fundamental open questions persist and need appropriate attention:
– The traffic and safety objectives are quite often conflicting and any research and implementation agenda requires clear objectives and clearly stating the pros and cons for any choice.
– The human factors should be incorporated in the design of the new and autonomous transport and road systems; with the Authorities playing a key coordination role.
– Public Authorities and private stakeholders should invest and exploit research on human factors in order to properly define the new systems.
Contribution at the European Commission DG Research and Innovation Workshop on Future Mobility and the Challenges for Human Factors and Behaviour, Brussels, September 2016
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