Safe and efficient human-machine systems

Research in the profile area Safe and Efficient Human-Machine Systems deals with the interaction between human and machine in its broadest sense; everything from simple products to complex socio-technical systems. The overall goal is to contribute to the design of technical solutions that are easy to learn, efficient to use, and which result in a positive user experience.

The aim is to develop knowledge so that technical products and systems are designed in a way that leads to efficient, safe and comfortable use. Studies are undertaken to analyse the interplay between human and machine from different perspectives; to develop and evaluate new solutions, and to develop theories and methodology for studying the interplay.

In many contexts, incidents and accidents are attributed ‘the human factor’, the where human is identified as the weakest link. This conclusion leads to a development where technical solutions are designed to take over human tasks. We argue instead that humans have considerable potential to solve problems and to contribute to increased system efficiency. By acknowledging human-machine problems as a consequence of poor systems design and by holistically addressing the design of the system, new and more effective ways to solve problems related to system efficiency and safety emerge. 


Sustainability development goals

The research addresses several of the UN goals to achieve a more sustainable societal development. The research mainly contributes to Goal 9 - Sustainable Industry, Innovations and Infrastructure - by promoting a safe and effective interaction between people and technology. Other relevant goals are Goal 3 - Health and wellbeing - and Goal 8 - Decent work and sustainable economic growth - by addressing challenges in physical and cognitive ergonomics. 


Research themes

The profile area covers various overarching themes such as product ergonomics, human-machine interaction and interaction with automation.


Product ergonomics

Products must be designed with regard to people's physical and cognitive abilities and limitations, to the (work) task, and to the environment in which the product is to be used. By analysing this interaction using theoretical methods as well as, for example, user tests, we can identify deficiencies, propose modifications, and thereby support a more user-centred development. For several years, we have contributed to the development of unique knowledge about seatbelt solutions and how their design influences the use, comfort and safety of drivers and passengers. Special target groups have been children and the elderly. 

Human-machine interaction

Human-machine interaction is often abbreviated HMI. A key question concerns how to design different types of interfaces in ways that lead to effective, efficient, and satisfactory interaction and use. In many environments, additional demands are placed on the interaction between people and interactive products. There are several examples of situations that have resulted in people being injured or even died as a consequence of poor usability design. Human-machine interaction (or MMI or HMI) is about designing products and systems in a way that reduces the risk of use errors and supports users in their daily work. New methods have been developed in order to be able to assess such risks early in the design process. One area of application where we have been operating is medical technology. Another area is the process industry and power plants where the interaction between operator and system is central to safe and efficient operation. Here, the research has resulted in a methodology for evaluating the design of control rooms from a human-machine interaction perspective in the early stages of development.

Interaction with automation

Today, people meet automation both at home and at work. Within e.g. the process industry increased automation have led to higher demands on the operator's ability to interpret information and understand ongoing processes. In a series of projects, we have investigated what the associated challenges are from a human factors perspective and, for example, how the challenges can be represented in a way that describes the interaction between control system, user interfaces and the operator’s knowledge and skill. Interaction with autonomous vehicles is another research domain. In different studies we try to reach more in-depth understanding of what increased automation means for how people use vehicles and what this means for the design of the interior of the vehicle and for different types of protection systems. Other projects aim to develop knowledge on what factors affect people's trust in fully or partially self-driving vehicles and how users perceive and understand (or do not) different levels of automation.

Areas of expertise

  • Ergonomics / Human Factors
  • Comfort
  • Interaction design
  • Interface design
  • Human error, use errors

The research group