Ecological interface design: supporting fault diagnosis of automated advice in a supervisory air traffic control task

Clark Borst, Vincent A. Bijsterbosch, M. M. van Paassen, Max Mulder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
39 Downloads (Pure)


Future air traffic control will have to rely on more advanced automation to support human controllers in their job of safely handling increased traffic volumes. A prerequisite for the success of such automation is that the data driving it are reliable. Current technology, however, still warrants human supervision in coping with (data) uncertainties and consequently in judging the quality and validity of machine decisions. In this study, ecological interface design was used to assist controllers in fault diagnosis of automated advice, using a prototype ecological interface (called the solution space diagram) for tactical conflict detection and resolution in the horizontal plane. Results from a human-in-the-loop simulation, in which sixteen participants were tasked with monitoring automation and intervening whenever required or desired, revealed a significant improvement in fault detection and diagnosis in a complex traffic scenario. Additionally, the experiment also exposed interesting interaction patterns between the participants and the advisory system, which seemed unrelated to the fault diagnosis task. Here, the explicit means-ends links appeared to have affected participants’ control strategy, which was geared toward taking over control from automation, regardless of the fault condition. This result suggests that in realizing effective human-automation teamwork, finding the right balance between offering more insight (e.g., through ecological interfaces) and striving for compliance with single (machine) advice is an avenue worth exploring further.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)545–560
Number of pages16
JournalCognition, Technology and Work
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Air traffic control
  • Automation
  • Decision making
  • Ecological interface design
  • Sensor failure
  • Supervisory control


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