2018 Research Project

Concept of Operations for an Autonomous Vehicle Dispatch Center

Principal Investigator
Missy Cummings
Duke University
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Project Slide Deck

Research Brief


Systems like autonomous vehicles (AVs) that operate in uncertain environments can be expected to require some degree of human oversight for the foreseeable future. While remote operations centers exist for several modes of transportation, such as air traffic control, flight dispatch, rail dispatch, and public safety roles, limited attention has been given to the design of remote operations centers for AVs. We will address this gap by developing a concept of operations (CONOPS) for an autonomous vehicle remote operations center.

The purpose of the CONOPS will be to describe the operational needs and systems characteristics for the system. The outcome of this project will be a CONOPS document including, at a minimum, the following components:

  • Description of relevant characteristics of current dispatch systems and environments.
  • A detailed description of the system including justification.
  • Scenarios illustrating use of the system in real-world environments including internal and external factors.

CONOPS development will employ a systems-theoretic approach, analyzing the system holistically and explicitly considering both technical and sociotechnical aspects. The approach, which has been used previously by the Duke Humans and Autonomy Lab (HAL) for CONOPS development (Nneji, et al., 2018; Nneji, et al., 2017), includes the following high-level analysis and development activities:

  • Identify and interview relevant stakeholders: The project team will identify stakeholders with expertise in dispatch operations, and/or AVs and conduct structured interviews to identify characteristics, strengths, and limitations of remote operations centers that are relevant to AV deployment.
  • Define system boundaries and functional requirements: From the results of the interviews and literature reviews the project team will define key functional requirements of an AV remote operations center.

This project will leverage models of dispatcher workload developed previously at HAL. These models assess dispatch roles performed during nominal and off nominal operations to identify task loads that lead to low, moderate and high workload levels. Because operators may face challenges responding quickly to emergency situations, the analysis will include exploring the possibility of incorporating advanced automated tools to assist the operators during periods of higher workload. The goal for the remote operations center design will be to maintain moderate workload levels for all operators, if possible, to support system safety.

Project Details

Project Type: Research
Project Status: Active
Start Date: 5-1-2018
End Date: 1-31-2021
Contract Year: Year 2
Total Funding from CSCRS: $40,000