A systems perspective on maritime autonomy: The Vessel Traffic Service’s contribution to safe coexistence between autonomous and conventional vessels
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The technology development is a cornerstone of continuously improving the society. Automation has increased efficiency, and during the last decade, digitalisation has been another game changer that has opened for technology taking an even larger role in our society. Automation and digitalisation has paved the way for autonomy being the next innovation that can change the transport sectors significantly. However, despite some years with optimism, no commercial maritime autonomous concepts are implemented. My motivation for the study is that the development of maritime autonomy seems to be challenged by a one-sided technology focus and ignoring humans. Such technology focus, forces the development to be an attempt to make machines as humans, and if technology fails, the autonomous concept should be saved by a human operator. Hence, relying on the humans being idle until the moment they are needed, and then act reliable and swift, much like a machine would do. Making machines as humans, and humans as machines, is a difficult task, and consequently I suggest a different approach to maritime autonomy. In my study, I suggest using a systems perspective on maritime autonomy where the focus is shifted from the autonomous vessel in isolation, to a systems perspective considering the interaction between the autonomous vessel, conventional vessel, and the Vessel Traffic Services (VTS), while emphasizing the human role. My system of interest is the VTS, and I focus on Norwegian waters and the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA), which is responsible for the Norwegian VTS’ The theoretical frame of reference follows my motivation of taking a systems perspective that considers system performance as well as the human role. As such, the theoretical frame of reference is both systems theory and human factors theory. The theories overlap on the term resilience and the common objective of maintaining a stable performance in a shifting environment. Safe coexistence between vessels of any kind, is considered such stable performance, and is central for my study. The philosophical foundation has pointed the research in a different direction than first anticipated. Safe coexistence is an ontologically subjective claim that can be explained by epistemological objective or subjective claims. My background from aviation led me in the direction of searching for objective claims for safe coexistence. However, this was demanding due to little coherence between the available objective measures and the subjective meaning of safety that was expressed by the participants in the study. Consequently, the research was shifted to look for epistemological subjective claims for safe coexistence. Corollary, the causation in the study concerns how to intervene on the role of the VTS to allow for safe coexistence in a future maritime traffic system with conventional and autonomous vessels. Based on the theoretical frame of reference and the choices of philosophical stances, the requirement for my methodology was to be supported by a known design research methodology, allow for interaction and participation, and iterate between parts and the whole. Consequently, I combined the Design Research Methodology (DRM) with a complementary mindset of systems engineering and human-centred design. In the first stage of the research, I clarify the research area by discussing the human role in the future maritime system. The study highlights that the ambiguity in the term autonomy creates a challenge for the development and a set of parameters to describe autonomy is presented. The human role in maritime autonomy is discussed and emphasises that humans will strengthen the system and will remain responsible. The second stage of the research provides a deeper understanding of the existing role of the VTS. Both a systems approach, of the VTS as a system, and a focus on the humans, the VTS operators, are applied. The systems perspective describes the VTS as a control system in a Maritime Traffic System. Subsequently, the law of requisite variety from cybernetics shows that a VTS needs to have a variety in response equal to, or larger, than the variety in demands by the environment. Focusing on the humans, the research shows that this variety is created by the VTS operators and to explore this performance variety, a cognitive task analysis unpacks how VTS operators cope with complexity. The third stage of the study suggests a socio-technical systems approach to design a future VTS. A democratic approach is recommended, where personnel with different organisational affiliation and expertise provide input to the change. To identify and evaluate changes, internal and external effects to the VTS are considered. The internal effects are identified by a levelled socio-technical approach, while the external effects are found by applying the architectural design principles for system-ofsystems. The final stage of the study applies a user-involved design process, where personnel from the NCA provide input on how to apply traffic organisation and traffic regulation to facilitate for a safe coexistence between autonomous and conventional vessels. The most prominent result is that the VTS needs to change its role from solving problems ad-hoc to taking a tactical responsibility. Some of the identified traffic organisation and regulation measures for the VTS are to some extent present today, while others are new and need to be implemented. The user-involved process, including a prototype of an autonomous vessel in a 2025-scenario, indicates that even if the changes lead to additional responsibilities for the VTS, the measures are considered as feasible and relatively easy to implement.
Has partsPaper 1: Relling, Tore; Lutzhoft, Margareta; Ostnes, Runar; Hildre, Hans Petter. A human perspective on maritime autonomy. Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) 2018 ;Volum 10916 LNAI. s. 350-362 https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-91467-1_27
Paper 2: Relling, Tore; Lützhöft, Margareta Holtensdotter; Hildre, Hans Petter; Ostnes, Runar. How vessel traffic service operators cope with complexity – only human performance absorbs human performance. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science 2019 https://doi.org/10.1080/1463922X.2019.1682711
Paper 3: Relling, Tore; Praetorius, Gesa; Hareide, Odd Sveinung. A socio-technical perspective on the future Vessel Traffic Services. Necesse 2019 ;Volum 4.(1) s. 112-129
Paper 4: Relling, Lützhöft, Ostnes and Hildre (In review). ”It is not difficult, we could do it tomorrow: The Vessel Traffic Services contribution to safe coexistence between automated and conventional vessels”