UTTRI Faculty Snapshot: Associate Professor Birsen Donmez

“When we talk about automated vehicles, everyone thinks about the self-driving cars. But vehicles are already automated to some extent.”
– Birsen Donmez

Seated at driving simulator April 2018

Professor Birsen Donmez seated at a driving simulator, where some of her human factors research is conducted. (Photo: Pat Doherty)

What aspects of transportation does your research address?

Human factors. My research focuses on understanding and improving driver behaviour and performance. We conduct simulator, instrumented vehicle, and naturalistic studies. We also perform crash data analysis.  Major topics we pursue are driver attention and interactions with technologies, including carried in devices and automated vehicle features.

What other important aspects of transportation does it connect to?

Our work mainly focuses on traffic safety. However, we also have done work at supporting medical vehicle dispatch decisions.

How did you arrive at your area of interest?

My undergraduate degree is in Mechanical Engineering. When I explored different graduate programs, Human Factors Engineering caught my attention. I had never thought about it before. I liked the idea of taking humans into account in system design. I also liked that it is very interdisciplinary. It draws from many different fields outside engineering: e.g., psychology, education, statistics, and computer science.

What motivates you to continue research in this area?

Vehicle technologies are going through a big transformation and supporting driver-automation coordination is essential to bring these new technologies safely to the transportation system. These are particularly exciting times to be researching driver behaviour.

What impact have you achieved or do you hope for?

My work helps insure our safety by making certain that new automated features and controls are created and developed taking human factors into account.

AutomotiveUI ‘18

We’ll be hosting the 10th ACM International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces in Toronto this September; I am excited to serve as the General Chair.

The goal of AutomotiveUI is to support the development of automotive user interfaces that are safe, easy to use, useful, and desired by users. We focus on novel vehicle technologies through models and concepts for enhancing the driver experience, performance, and behavior, the development of semi and fully autonomous driving, and the needs of different user groups, including passengers and pedestrians.

It’s the premier conference on automotive user interfaces and attracts over 200 people every year, from both academia and industry.

Posted June 6, 2018


Birsen Donmez is Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and Canada Research Chair in Human Factors and Transportation.

UTTRI Faculty Snapshots is a series highlighting UTTRI associated faculty.