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From the Foundation for Professional Ergonomics

University of Southampton Student Wins International Award

Congratulations to Siobhan Merriman, a PhD student at the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Southampton in the United Kingdom for winning the 2022 Dieter W. Jahns Student Practitioner Award.

Siobhan’s major professor is Dr. Katherine L. Plant. Dr. Kirsten M. A. Revell is a secondary advisor. The award will be presented to Siobhan during the 2022 Human Factors and Ergonomics Society meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. A second $1,000 check was sent to Professor Plant. Siobhan’s’ project, “To Trust or not to Trust a Level 4 Automated Vehicle, That is the Question.” It focused on improving drivers’ mental models for activating autonomous driving aids and trust in automation.

Siobhan Merriman accepting the 2022 Dieter W. Jahns Student Practitioner Award FPE President Bob Smillie and the 2014 winner of the award, Denny Yu.


Automated Vehicles (AVs) are expected to increase road safety (e.g. fewer and less serious vehicle collisions). One of the challenges, however, is ensuring drivers have an appropriate level of trust in the automation, as this will influence drivers’ mental models and their driving behavior. If drivers have a poor mental model for the capabilities and limitations of the automation, they may over-trust and activate the automation in inappropriate road conditions leading to a collision. There are six levels of driving automation, from Level 0 (No Automation) where the driver performs all driving tasks to Level 5 (Full Automation) where the automation performs all driving tasks in all road and environmental conditions.

Siobhan’s project addressed Level 4 automation (High Automation), the automation performs all driving tasks and monitors the road environment. The driver is no longer required to perform takeovers as the vehicle can transition to a minimal risk condition. Level 4 AVs overcome some challenges associated with Levels 1-3 AVs. Drivers are no longer required to perform the continuous monitoring or perform takeovers as the vehicle can transition to a minimal risk condition.

Thematic model example for an AV accident illustrating the role of automation trust and mental models.

Siobhan developed an online video-based training program to improve drivers’ mental models for when Level 4 automation can be activated. Drivers’ trust in automation was measured before and after training. The training reduced drivers’ trust in Level 4 automation implying that drivers initially have misplaced trust in the capabilities of AVs, which, without training, may influence their unsafe interactions with them on the road. The training, therefore, can support the safe use of Level 4 AVs by helping drivers activate the automation in appropriate road conditions. This will create safer roads by reducing collisions linked to drivers having inappropriate mental models and trust in automation. This way the clear benefits of Level 4 AVs can be realised without the challenges.

Click here for an abstract of Siobhan’s project.

Honorable Mention

This year’s competition included the following submissions:

  • Mengyao Li, University of Wisconsin – Madison, submitted Measuring and Managing Trust in Conversational Agent; Professor John Lee was her advisor.
  • Akram Sadat Jafari Roodbandi, Shiraz University, Iran, submitted Investigation of Ergonomic Components of Cognitive Functions and Evaluation of the Effect of Transcranial Electrical Stimulation Technique on Cognitive Function Empowerment in Air Traffic Controller; Professor Alirezal Choobinch was his advisor.

Previous winners include: 

  • 2021: Anita Ney and Lillian Lacey (coauthors), University of Cincinnati and Bhawana Rathore National Institute of Industrial Engineering Mumbai, India 
  • 2020:  Sara Wolf and Franzisca Maas, Institute Human-Computer-Media, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Germany
  • 2019:  Husam Muslim, University of Tsukuba, Japan 
  • 2018:  Paul Schlosser, Institute Human-Computer-Media, Julius-Maximilians- Universität Würzburg, Germany
  • 2017:  Carly Warren, Abeera Ali, David Gafni, Daipayan Guha, Mayan Murray, and Hendrik Ophardt, University of Toronto
  • 2016:  Hyungil Kim, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • 2015:  Moritz Albert, Daniel Reinhardt, and Ann-Kathrin Kraft Institute Human-Computer-Media, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
  • 2014:  Denny Yu, University of Michigan
  • 2013:  Kapil Chalil Madathil, Clemson University
  • 2012:  Mohd Nasrull Abdol Rahman, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
  • 2011:  Radin Umar, Ohio State University
  • 2010:  Augusto Espinosa, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University



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The Foundation for Professional Ergonomics was established in 2004 as a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing professionalism in ergonomics through educational activities and awards.  Our goals support the goals of BCPE, and we work closely with the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) on various ergonomics practitioner initiatives.  FPE attained an IRS 501(c)(3) status enabling tax-deductible donations from those sharing this dedication to professionalism in ergonomics.