Archives For naturalistic decision making

I think it was John Norman who pointed out that accidents in complex automated systems often arise because of unintended interactions between operator and automation where both are trying to control the same system.

Now Johns comment is an insightful one, but the follow on question is, logically, how are automation and operator trying to control the system?

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Recent incidents involving Airbus aircraft have again focused attention on their approach to cockpit automation and it’s interaction with the crew.

Underlying the current debate is perhaps a general view that the automation should somehow be ‘perfect’, and that failure of automation is also a form of moral failing (1). While this weltanschauung undoubtedly serves certain social and psychological needs the debate it engenders doesn’t really further productive discussion on what could or indeed should be done to improve cockpit automation. So let’s take a closer look at the Airbus protection laws implemented in the flight control automation and compare it with how experienced aircrew actually make decisions in the cockpit.

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