Human Factors in Transport Safety

Human factors are the largest cause of accidents across all transport modes. Increased technical development and automation fundamentally change the way in which humans interact with the road or rail vehicles, vessels or aircraft and can improve safety by decreasing the human element. Evolving systems, operations and technology change how humans perceive their immediate environment and traffic as well as how they interact with the machine. However, machines are inherently less flexible than humans, who are, by their nature, variable in terms of behaviour, experience, cultural demographic, distraction, fatigue etc. Availability of sufficient relevant data on human factors needs to be secured. There is also a need for better methodologies to assess human factors which should be incorporated within risk based approaches to design and operation. In particular, human behaviour in "normal situations", in addition to accidents and incidents, should be assessed using real world data when available. Consideration also needs to be taken of demographic factors, including dynamics such as variations in safety perception and behaviour resulting from greater cultural and ethnic diversity in the EU.

The challenge is to improve transport safety through a more timely, focussed and integrated adoption of human factors in the design of road or rail vehicles, vessels or aircraft, infrastructure and the mobility system - taking advantage of automation - as well as increasing knowledge of enhanced human machine interactions to further advance the use of automation without introducing new, previously unknown, safety risks. More knowledge is needed on how automation changes human behaviour and the capability to react appropriately to fast emerging situations in a complex environment.

It is also necessary to understand and address bottlenecks in organisational acceptance of technological and social change. This includes emerging legal and regulatory issues associated with shifts in responsibility of the operator (driver, pilot, captain etc) as well as governance of complex integrated systems.

Cross-fertilisation of concepts and technologies across transport modes is encouraged.


In order to meet this challenge, proposals should address one of the following sub-topics, and clearly indicate which subtopic is addressed:

  • Subtopic A): Understand the limitations, interaction and range of factors that influence and degrade human performance when controlling a vehicle/aircraft/vessel and apply solutions that overcome these limitations. Establish the conditions for a "tolerance zone" of acceptable operator performance and corresponding appropriate actions when the limits of safe behaviour are approached. The range of factors to be taken into account includes – but is not limited to - physical profile and ability, age, gender, linguistic and IT abilities, level of technical and non-technical skills, culture, and limitations faced by persons of reduced mobility (“PRM”). Carry out comparative behavioural and perceptive studies in different EU regions, and – within them – between different cultural and ethnic groups amongst transport users and operators, in order to understand diversity in perception of danger, comprehension of rules, mobility behaviour. Apply the knowledge in concepts and solutions. Methods and measures that support better adaptation skills in human behaviour, or provide intelligent support, may be considered. Define behavioural markers, including indicators of successful and degraded human performance. Develop recovery measures and mitigation solutions together with methods and techniques for measurement of changes in performance. Virtual concepts should be considered. Verify models and methods experimentally in relevant use cases. Activities should be aimed at identifying measures to increase understanding, respect and acceptance of transport safety rules. Furthermore the actions proposed should support the transfer of best practice within the EU and in neighbouring countries and ensure a better transport culture. Collaboration with neighbouring countries is recommended.
  • Subtopic B): Improve the assessment of human risk factors in risk based design and operation within waterborne / air transport, including crew resource management, crew awareness and response in extreme cases (e.g collision, evacuation, aircrafts upset recovery, runway excursions, etc). Identify new (and presently unknown) risk factors which might arise in the transformation towards increasing automation. Compile and analyse a large quantity of global real world accident, incident, near miss and other safety event data. Use this data to develop improved methodologies to address human factors within risk based comprehensive design models and operational safety assessment for waterborne and air transport. The data (if necessary anonymised) should be retained as an open source beyond the project, and be maintained and updated. Standardised guidelines should be developed for assessing and categorising human factors within investigations of accidents, incidents and near misses and other safety events. The resulting data should be easily incorporated into open data bases which can be a continued resource for risk based design and operations. Guidelines should be developed and, if necessary, recommendations to amend existing rules and regulation should be made.

Proposals should include methodologies or tools to demonstrate that they contribute significantly to safe transport systems through the knowledge created and also show how the measures identified adapt best practices to local conditions. Work should draw upon knowledge from other sectors-when addressing risk and interaction with complex systems. Development of enhanced Human Machine Interface solutions and simulators should take into account the advantages of automation. The cross-modal transfer of human factors issues within various levels of automation should also be considered. Proposals addressing air transport may include the commitment from the European Aviation Safety Agency to assist or to participate in the action.

In line with the strategy for EU international cooperation in research and innovation[(COM(2012)497, international cooperation is encouraged.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 4 and 8 million each would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

A significant step towards a safe transport system considering all transport modes, enabled by a decrease in collisions and incidents attributable to human factors by taking advantage of increasing automation in transport operation and control. Enhanced transport safety for a diverse demographic by increasing consideration of human factors within designs and transport operation means. Improved selection and training of operators. Enhanced international cooperation concerning human factors. Improved international rules and regulations. Facilitation of learning and safety improvement from assessment of human factors within accidents, incidents, near misses and other safety events, enabled through the provision of a long term human factors data resource. For road transport, actions will contribute to UN's Sustainable Development Goals 11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) and 3.6 (By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents). For aviation, actions will contribute to United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), EASA and FlightPath2050 goals to decrease fatality rates. For waterborne actions will contribute to IMO, EMSA, European maritime transport policy and UN Sustainable Development Goals 14 concerning the sustainable use of the seas and oceans.

Cross-cutting Priorities

  • International cooperation
  • Socio-economic science and humanities
  • Gender
Date de candidature
Sciences sociales : Sociologie