Control of Safety-Critical Systems
Guy A. Boy
European Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Engineering ( EURISCO)
4, avenue Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France
In the control of complex dynamic systems, and furthermore safety-critical systems, human operators need to be aware and in control of the situation at all times. Situation awareness and control are key issues that lead to the study of human errors, vigilance, workload, performance, competence, work representation, and so on. Automation has been a crucial research topic in human factors for several decades. The nature of automation has tremendously evolved over the last few years. Software is now an integrating part of almost any complex system, to the point that it is more important both quantitatively and qualitatively than the rest of the system. Most current automated systems include software that has become more autonomous and includes more intelligent features within specific contexts. This paper tries to investigate why these intelligent assistants have become so important in industry, as well as in our everyday life. The argumentation is based on real-world experience in the field of automation and human-computer interaction applied to the aeronautics and space domains.
An intelligent assistant may play different roles according to its own level of automation. Four classes of assistance may be distinguished: a classical technical documentation that is either paper-based or computer-based; a contextsensitive computer integrated documentation that is used as an advisor where the human controls the machine directly ( Boy 1991); note that in this paper, the machine is typically a complex dynamic system; an amplifier of user capacities