The Benefits and Costs of Low and High Degree of Automation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The objective of this study is to examine the effects of low and high degree of automation (DOA) on performance, subjective workload, situation awareness (SA), and return-to-manual control in simulated submarine track management. Background: Theory and meta-analytic evidence suggest that as DOA increases, operator performance improves and workload decreases, but SA and return-to-manual control declines. Research also suggests that operators have particular difficulty regaining manual control if automation provides incorrect advice. Method: Undergraduate student participants completed a submarine track management task that required them to track the position and behavior of contacts. Low DOA supported information acquisition and analysis, whereas high DOA recommended decisions. At a late stage in the task, automation was either unexpectedly removed or provided incorrect advice. Results: Relative to no automation, low DOA moderately benefited performance but impaired SA and non-automated task performance. Relative to no automation and low DOA, high DOA benefited performance and lowered workload. High DOA did impair non-automated task performance compared with no automation, but this was equivalent to low DOA. Participants were able to return-to-manual control when they knew low or high DOA was disengaged, or when high DOA provided incorrect advice. Conclusion: High DOA improved performance and lowered workload, at no additional cost to SA or return-to-manual performance when compared with low DOA. Application: Designers should consider the likely level of uncertainty in the environment and the consequences of return-to-manual deficits before implementing low or high DOA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)874-896
Number of pages23
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


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