Pilot study for an Italian Human-Centered Design (HCD) Strategy

In occasione del World Congress on Railway Research (tenutosi a Milano dal 29 maggio al 2 giugno 2016), abbiamo presentato il lavoro “Pilot study for an Italian Human-Centred Design (HCD) Strategy” sviluppato insieme a ErgoCert Srl, Bombardier Transportation Italy S.p.A., Rete Ferroviaria Italiana S.p.A., Sapienza Università di Roma.

Current railway Automation & Control Systems allow centralizing the traffic management for a growing number of rail network nodes by using increasingly robust features both for operational and safety interventions. To adequately manage such large set of data it will be necessary to take into account the interaction between Dispatchers and technology. Indeed, a great variety of parallel stimulation (e.g. visual vs. auditory, digital vs. analogical) must be correctly deployed for keeping the operators on adequate situation awareness and safety levels, but also for meeting the desired timeliness and meaningfulness information to passengers. With that in mind, we devised an exploratory study adopting Human Factors and Ergonomics methodologies and tools for the analysis and optimization of cognitive and physical interactions within an Operation Control Center (OCC). Interviews and instrumental measurements (i.e. eye-tracking and motion capture) allowed us to model operators’ interaction with their workstations in different scenarios (e.g. time of the day, traffic loads) and the physical and cognitive outcomes of such interaction (e.g. fragmentation of the information flow, use of the cervical spine). The log file data analysis allowed us to identify peaks that may be suggestive of a periodicity in performance. This finding could be eventually used to check whether the cyclical pattern found reflects the allocation of mental resources. Overall, the present exploratory study served as a basis for devising an innovative Italian railway Human-Centered Design (HCD) vision which could allow defining novel requirements as well as assessment strategies and certification protocols. The activity carried out so far confirmed that an HCD approach can improve operators’ performance and the acceptance of novel technology.

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