The Human Side of Transportation Safety
In Mike Manser’s mind humans are a critical link in transportation safety. Manser is the program manager of the Center for Transportation Safety’s Human Factors Group, and joined TTI in the fall of 2013. We sat down with him to talk about his work and his personal interests.
- How long have you been with TTI? Can you talk a little about your work history here?
I have been working for TTI for just a few months now, but I am a returning employee who worked for the institute in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. My work in the ‘90s focused on determining the factors that influence driver distraction and evaluating the technologies to mitigate the effects of distraction. Today, my work examines distraction as a small component of how drivers interact with vehicle and infrastructure-based technologies.
- What is your specific area of interest? Why did you choose to go into that area?
I have always had a strong interest in how to optimize the interaction between people and their environments. What makes an interaction easy, difficult, frustrating, easy to understand and how we can modify factors to improve the interaction. Within the driving domain, I focus on understanding and improving drivers’ ability to interact with new vehicle and infrastructure-based technologies with an emphasis on driving performance, mental workload and product usability, as they may ultimately influence safety.
- If people needed to call you for help within TTI, what would they be calling you for?
Humans (e.g., drivers, pilots, riders, conductors, captains, etc.) are the critical link in transportation safety. As a result, any improvements in safety must understand and consider the human. If you want to understand the human, the role they play and how to improve their responses, give me a call.
- What do you see as your strengths in your profession? What do you excel at and really enjoy doing?
Having a strong background in psychology and having exposure to engineers through some great professionals has given me a strong appreciation of the interdisciplinary nature of transportation safety and what is needed to make a significant impact in this area. Creating interdisciplinary teams and developing/researching innovative transportation safety solutions is exciting — particularly when I can point to a solution that is being used in the real world.
- What is/are your favorite hobby/hobbies? Can you elaborate on one of those as to why it interests you?
I am very passionate about racing cars. There is a strong visceral reaction to the sounds, sights and feel of a racecar, but I also enjoy the engineering aspect. In the last several years I have been involved in racecar data acquisition and using that data for suspension, engine and chassis design and tuning. There are strong applications to my professional life in that the data from these systems can also be used to directly inform driver behaviors to improve performance. Like transportation safety, the driver is the weakest link and represents great opportunity for overall system improvement.
Within the driving domain, Manser focuses on understanding and improving drivers’ ability to interact with new vehicle and infrastructure-based technologies with an emphasis on driving performance, mental workload and product usability, as they may ultimately influence safety.