Safety during the transition to higher levels of automation

This project consists of two studies in relation with the transition to higher levels of automation.

One study investigates the mental workload: a workload that is either too high or too low leads to poorer performance and a higher risk of crashes.

The other study investigates ‘transition of control’: in the case of partly automated vehicles the vehicle will drive autonomously on part of the route and then the moment will come that the driver has to take over the driving task.

In addition to these two studies SWOV will also take part in national and international projects and networks such as Taking the Fast Lane, DAVI and Humanist.

Research questions

  1. Does the driver regulate the task load, and if so, how?
  2. Could the task load be regulated when new systems are introduced?
  3. ‘Transition of control’: partly automated vehicles will drive autonomously on some routes and at some point the driver will need to take over. How is the situation awareness of drivers and how well can they perceive hazards in traffic at the moment that they have to take over the driving task again?


With its research SWOV wishes to make a substantial and recognizable contribution to improving road safety during the transition to higher levels of the automated driving task. A large risk of increasing automation lies in the interaction between driver and new technology  and the changes in the driving task as a result of the new technology. At higher automation levels the task load and situation awareness change; both have a direct relation with safety. The increasing automation of the driving task changes the role of the driver in the vehicle. This offers opportunities to improve road safety, but also brings new risks. It is important to anticipate these risks and to build knowledge on how new risks can be kept small and how casualties can be saved.

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Project nr.



Start date: 01 Jan 2016
End date: 31 Dec 2016