Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

1255th OGM and open lecture

ann williamson   “Self-driving cars: will they help?”

   Professor Ann Williamson

   Transport and Road Safety Research Centre
   School of Aviation, UNSW Sydney

Wednesday 2 August 2017
Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

Autonomous vehicles and driver-assist technologies are seen as the 'next big thing' in transport and road safety. Many authoritative organisations are predicting benefits of up to 95% reductions in road traffic crashes: levels never achieved before. She argued that these forecasts are at best optimistic and at worst misleading, as they are based on the false ideas that driver error is at the heart of almost all road safety problems and that new technology is infallible. Ann's presentation described the main issues associated with different degrees of human- autonomous vehicle interactions using examples from aviation and road transport. She showed how some apparently beneficial technological advances can increase the likelihood of accidents by overwhelming a driver with information and because of the time involved in humans responding to problems arising.  She emphasised the need to act now to refocus the introduction of new technology in vehicles towards making them more usable tools for people if we are to maximize their benefits.

Ann Williamson is Director of the Transport and Road Safety (TARS) Research Centre and Professor of Aviation Safety at UNSW Sydney. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW and of the Australian College of Road Safety. She has a PhD in Psychology, was Foundation Director of the NSW Injury Risk Management Research Centre and previously Head of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Unit at the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety. Ann’s research focusses on human factors and injury in the areas of transportation and workplace safety, in particular on the role of error, especially skill-based error, in safety and the effects of fatigue on performance. She has been an invited technical expert on advisory committees for a wide range of transport and road safety authorities. She has twice been awarded an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship (2005-2015) and won the Ron Cumming Memorial medal from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia (2013), the Sustained Achievement over a Professional Career Award (2011), and the Meritorious Achievement in Research Award (2004). She has been President of the Australian Injury Prevention Network.

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