Out now – Human-Automation Interaction Design: Developing a Vehicle Automation Assistant

I am really pleased to announce that our book is available to the public in both hardcover and electronic copy.

This book tackles fundamental issues in human-automation interaction for vehicles that will distribute control and responsibility between driver and automated system. We have laid out the book into four distinct sections covering scoping activities, pilot testing, designing, and experimental validation to show how interface designers can identify issues, generate solutions, and validate prototypes by using robust human-factors methods.

At the heart of the book is the application of human-human communication to human-machine interaction. This can be seen through a chapter looking into how shift-work handover takes place in domains such as healthcare, energy manufacturing and aviation, as well as the design of interfaces that are centred around anthropomorphic interfaces that use vocal interaction strategies which are common-place in human shift-work.

The book explores the role of communication and the nature of situation awareness, workload, usability, acceptance, and trust in automated vehicles, and creates new insights into how we can approach modern issues through cross-domain lessons. Within this work you will find examples methods such as:

  • Literature review on automated vehicle interfaces
  • Systematic review on human-human communication strategies
  • Cognitive Work Analysis (CWA)
  • Eye-tracking and attention
  • Design with Intent (DwI)
  • User-centred focus groups
  • High fidelity driving simulator experiments
  • Interface prototyping

Aimed at professionals, graduate students, and academic researchers in the fields of ergonomics, automotive engineering, transportation engineering, and human factors, if you are interested in human-automation interaction, then this book is for you.

Safe roads and public engagement with automated vehicle technology will fundamentally come down to how we interact with these systems. I hope that this book helps those looking to improve automated vehicle technology and give those that read it an introduction into how human-factors methods can be deployed at all stages of the design life-cycle.

“The book explores the role of communication and the nature of situation awareness in automated vehicles to ensure safe and usable automated vehicle operation. It covers the issue of interaction in automated vehicles by providing insight into communicative concepts, the transfer of control in human teams, and how these concepts can be applied in automated vehicles.

This is a timely text that explores one of the most important issues in society today. We have all become aware that automation is starting to dominate our lives. This text is a ‘bible’ for how this line of progress should proceed. Here, at last, are specifications for an intelligent avatar, our own technological champion, a computerize ‘guardian angel’ to watch over us and smooth our way through an ever more complex world. Buy it, read it, learn from it, and be happy such works are there to guide and inform a cognate plan for our human future.”Professor Peter Hancock, University of Central Florida, USA

You can buy our book here and at various distributors.

Thanks to all those who have assisted with this work, it’s a great achievement and I’m forever grateful for your support.

Can interpersonal (human-to-human) communication inform the future of autonomous vehicles?

Imagine that you wake up and get ready for work. You exit your home and begin your commute in an autonomous vehicle. You are greeted by a virtual assistant, who asks you how you are feeling today, and where you’d like to travel. During this journey, both you and the autonomous vehicle are expected to be a team, and each of you may control the vehicle at different stages of the journey. Ultimately, you are both partially responsible for the vehicle’s safe operation – depending on who is in control and who holds liability (a tricky topic, and one best left for another blog post!).

What does this virtual assistant look like? How does it communicate? How emotionally connected are we to this technology? In an emergency how does the assistant handle the situation to keep you and others safe? Many of these questions are yet been answered, and the research community is divided over whether or not we can apply how humans naturally communicate with one another to answer these questions.

Developing an automation assistant for semi-autonomous vehicles (research article and book coming soon!)

Key works such as ‘The Media Equation’ by Reeves and Nass (1996) suggest that we treat machines as social agents, and that we often exhibit feelings and behaviours analogous to those in our inter-personal relationships such as empathy, frustration, and politeness. There are others that argue that how we treat humans is fundamentally different to how we treat machines, both from a reduction of harm perspective (i.e., we are less protective of harming a machine than another human; Bartneck et al., 2005). Those on this side of the debate state that communication between humans cannot be readily replicated by technology. In the centre, many influential works began investigating interpersonal communication and were then repurposed for human-computer interaction as the benefits of this work were realised as technology developed (e.g., Clark, 1996; Klein et al., 2004; 2005).

We are fundamentally limited to current or past technology to guide our conversations. But what does this debate mean for the future of AI and autonomous technology? As virtual assistants become smarter, more efficient, and perhaps more aware, the proposition that inter-personal communication can be beneficial for the human-robot interaction community may become more prevalent – if not only to understand how we can improve etiquette, effective communication of information, and promote natural communication.

During my doctoral research, I investigated how humans communicate with one another when handing over safety-critical tasks in areas such as healthcare, aviation, and control-rooms (Clark et al., 2019a). I wanted to understand how professionals, such as ambulance staff handing over a patient to an intensive-care unit used language, what strategies they preferred, and ultimately, what information they thought was critical to operational safety. I replicated a handful of strategies in an autonomous vehicle simulation and found that the lessons I had learnt from human-human communication, specifically in healthcare, were beneficial not only to human-computer interaction, but to an entirely different domain-of-study (Clark et al., 2019b). The source material of human-communication had provided me with communication strategies that has now taken the form of an in-vehicle automation assistant.

Replicating human-human communication in an ‘autonomous’ vehicle
(Clark et al., 2019b)

My new book: Human-Automation Interaction Design: Developing a Vehicle Automation Assistant, is expected to be published later this year. You’ll find the details of my journey from human-communication to an in-vehicle interface and all the steps in between including literature reviews, user-workshops, experiments.

Keep an eye on my work, and I look forward to bringing you more content soon!


Bartneck, C., Rosalia, C., Menges, R., & Deckers, I. (2005). Robot Abuse – A Limitation of the Media Equation. Rome, Italy: Interact 2005 Workshop on Abuse.

Clark, H. H. (1996). Using language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Clark, J. R., Stanton, N. A., & Revell, K. M. A. (2019a). Conditionally and highly automated vehicle handover: A study exploring vocal communication between two drivers. Transportation Research Part F: Psychology and Behaviour, 65, 699-715.

Clark, J. R., Stanton, N. A., & Revell, K. M. (2019b). Identified handover tools and techniques in high-risk domains: using distributed situation awareness theory to inform current practices. Safety Science, 118, 915-924.

Klein, G., Feltovich, P. J., Bradshaw, J. M., & Woods, D. D. (2005). Common ground and coordination in joint activity. Organizational Simulation, 53, 139-184.

Klein, G., Woods, D. D., Bradshaw, J. M., Hoffman, R. R., & Feltovich, P. J. (2004). Ten challenges for making automation a “team player” in joint human-agent activity. IEEE Intelligent Systems, 19(6), 91-95.

Reeves, B., & Nass, C. (1996). The media equation: How people treat computers, television, and new media like real people. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.