Manual control cybernetics: State-of-the-art and current trends

Max Mulder, Daan M. Pool, David A. Abbink, Erwin R. Boer, Peter M.T. Zaal, Frank M. Drop, Kasper van der El, Marinus M. van Paassen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
489 Downloads (Pure)


Manual control cybernetics aims to understand and describe how humans control vehicles and devices using mathematical models of human control dynamics. This “cybernetic approach” enables objective and quantitative comparisons of human behavior, and allows a systematic optimization of human control interfaces and training associated with manual control. Current cybernetics theory is primarily based on technology and analysis methods formalized in the 1960s and has shown to be limited in its capability to capture the full breadth of human cognition and control. This paper reviews the current state-of-the-art in our knowledge of human manual control, points out the main fundamental limitations in cybernetics, and proposes a possible roadmap to advance the theory and its applications. Central in this roadmap will be a shift from the current linear time-invariant modeling approach that is only truly valid for human behavior under tightly controlled and stationary conditions, to methods that facilitate the analysis of adaptive, and possibly time-varying, human behavior in realistic control tasks. Examples of key current developments in the field of cybernetics—human use of preview, predictable discrete maneuvering, skill acquisition and training, time-varying human modeling, and neuromuscular system modeling—that contribute to this shift are presented in this paper. The new foundations for cybernetics that will emerge from these efforts will impact all domains that involve humans in manual and semiautomatic control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-485
JournalIEEE Transactions on Human-Machine Systems
Volume48 (2018)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Adaptation models
  • Control systems
  • Cybernetics
  • dynamic behavior
  • Human factors
  • man–machine systems
  • manual control
  • modeling
  • Organizations
  • Visual perception


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