Human Factors Research Group

Image of Gary Burnett

Gary Burnett

Professor of Transport Human Factors, Faculty of Engineering



Professor Gary Burnett holds a Chair in Transport Human Factors within the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham, UK. He has a BEng degree in Civil Engineering from Warwick University, an MSc in Information Technology from Loughborough University and a PhD in Human Factors/Ergonomics from Loughborough University. Professor Burnett is the head of the Human Factors Research Group, a team of over 60 academics and PhD students that conducts world-leading research concerning the human-centred engineering design issues for new technology.

Expertise Summary

My overall area of expertise is in Human Factors/Ergonomics. Specifically, the group of researchers and PhD students I lead within the Human Factors Research Group addresses human-centred issues related to the development of technology within road-based vehicles. In this research, we aim to provide the necessary understanding to develop appropriate user-interfaces (or human-machine interfaces - HMIs) for use in the vehicle/driving environment. In this context, "appropriate" may mean "carry out tasks quick, with few errors", "workload that is not too high", "satisfying/engaging", and so on. Often we are considering variables related to safety, for instance the potential for driver distraction with different HMIs. Distraction may be visual (eyes off road), cognitive (mind off road) or biomechanical (limbs off primary controls). Increasingly, our group is carrying out research investigating issues for highly and fully automated future vehicles, such as how the "driver/user" and car will share control in a seamless fashion or what the user-experience might be for a service-level autonomous vehicle (robotaxi)-addressing issues of trust and acceptance.

We often carry out experiments using driving simulators to investigate these variables in a safe, controlled and cost-effective environment. Alternatively, we commonly use instrumented vehicles as a means of conducting research in more realistic (ecologically valid) environments. To ensure maximum relevance/impact of our work, the research is frequently carried in collaboration with vehicle manufacturers and their tier 1 suppliers.

Put simply, the three questions we aim to answer are:

  1. What are the impacts (in terms of safety, efficiency, comfort, engagement, etc.) of in-car technology systems on the driver?
  2. What is the potential for novel HMIs in a driving context, for example, natural speech, augmented reality head-up displays, gesture-driven interfaces, etc.?
  3. What methods and measures are appropriate for use in the design and evaluation of in-car computing systems?

Teaching Summary

I teach in the area of Human Factors Engineering and Human-Computer Interaction. I am currently convener for the following modules:

  • MMME4084 Simulation, Virtual Reality and Advanced Human-Machine Interface (Autumn Semester) - a novel module at the cutting edge of technology (which is run almost completely in social VR using our exciting virtual teaching castle campus 'Nottopia'!). You can watch a short video here about the positive student experience from 2020.
  • MMME4074 Advanced Methods in Human Factors and Human-Computer Interaction (Spring Semester) - a module giving practical instruction in a range of methods commonly used in research and development
  • MMME4081 Human Factors in context - a distance learning module focused on the skills needed to develop tenders for Human Factors projects in realistic scenarios

I also contribute considerably to our modules in Human-Computer Systems and Physical Ergonomics - so you may see me teaching in those classes too.

In my teaching I'm increasingly interested in novel approaches for engaging students - in particular the use of Virtual Reality (VR). In this respect, I believe the best way to aid students in their understanding of the potential and drawbacks of VR is to immerse students within a shared virtual environment for the majority of their learning experiences. The purpose built fantastical environment Nottopia is ideally suited for this purpose with specifically-designed spaces for individuals to attend presentations, engage in group work, show and tell, treasure hunts, expert panel discussions, virtual tours, etc. You can see examples here of me giving a lecture in VR and also a seminar in VR with our students.

Research Summary

Current funded research projects are addressing the following issues related to the design/evaluation of Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs) for future vehicles:

  • Understanding users' requirements for future autonomous taxi services, including internal/external HMIs and overall user-experience) - the ServCity project sponsored by Innovate UK
  • Developing advanced HMIs using ultrasound tecnhology to provide touchless interactions within vehicles (KTP project together with Ultraleap)
  • Investigating the feasibility for new forms of driver training to support the use of future conditionally and highly automated vehicles - particularly focused on issues of transfer of control (sponsored by the RAC Foundation)

Recent Publications

Future Research

I welcome enquiries from potential PhD candidates from Home, EU and overseas who are interested in working with us in the following research areas: Human Factors of future vehicles, including automated and autonomous vehicles. Human-Machine Interface design; Driver behaviour; Driver distraction; Virtual/Extended Reality; Human Factors of the navigation task.

Human Factors Research Group

Faculty of Engineering
The University of Nottingham
University Park, Nottingham

Telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4040