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Chapter 6 - Human-Centered Roadway Analysis and Design

Human-centered design starts with the limitations and preferences of the driver, and then derives appropriate technology from these human principles. This approach has been extremely successful for aviation and is slowly being incorporated into highway design in both the United States and Europe.

Of course, the general principles of human-centered design apply to many of the topics discussed previously. Self-organizing roads depend on human-centered design. The roundabout is a good example. Instead of expecting the human driver to stop at a signalized intersection, the roundabout minimizes the need for stopping. People inevitably make errors. Good design anticipates these errors and minimizes their consequences. An error at a signalized intersection can result in a 90-degree crash with drastic consequences to drivers and vehicles. A crash at a roundabout results in an angle much less than 90 degrees with consequently smaller risk and damage to vehicles and occupants.

The cable barrier in a 2+1 roadway also demonstrates human-centered design. Instead of blaming drivers for incorrectly crossing the median, the barrier prevents such a driver error. The Laerdal Tunnel lighting design is human centered because it anticipates and minimizes driver anxiety and boredom inside the tunnel. At TNO in the Netherlands, the team learned about efforts to reduce the number of words on traffic signs because drivers have a limited ability to assimilate language while driving down the highway.

Two excellent examples of human-centered design and analysis were presented at SINTEF in Norway: design for pedestrians and human-based standards for geometric roadway design. The program of active-children pedestrian design derives from the Norwegian preference of having children walk to school instead of being driven by their parents. Observational studies of pedestrian crossings revealed that raised zebra crossings and signalized zebra crossings are best for young children. Studies of human reaction time helped formulate standards for geometric roadway design.


HUMANIST is the acronym for a European Community (EC) project titled HUMAN-centered design for Information Society Technologies. The project started in March 2004 and will last 48 months; its EC subvention budget is EUR5.36 million (US$6.8 million). This project has two important lessons for U.S. research: the creation of a Virtual European Center to accomplish the work, and the selection and justification of the topic and research goals.

In Europe, competencies in human factors and cognitive science are scattered across several countries, so it is essential to integrate research capacities. This was accomplished by forming a network of excellence involving 108 researchers and 27 Ph.D. students at 22 research institutes. An annual program of researcher exchange and shared infrastructure promotes a harmonious research program with complementary and coordinated approaches. Integrating activities include the following:

The research goals reflect the importance of driver information and communication systems, as well as advanced driver assistance systems. The new in-vehicle technologies will alter the traditional role of the driver. It is unclear how drivers will react to new mappings of allocation of function in which the vehicle becomes more of a partner to the driver and in some cases can introduce control actions automatically (e.g., an automated cruise control slowing the vehicle). Sharing of vehicle control, while common in aviation, is a revolutionary procedure in driving. Airplane pilots have extensive training and retraining to work effectively with automated systems. Most vehicle drivers lack such training and may not be as skilled in interacting with systems as pilots who have been carefully selected and trained. Human-centered design will be applied to such specific areas as the following:

Both the approach of HUMANIST and its content should be of considerable interest to U.S. researchers and administrators. Plans for internal mobility of researchers and Ph.D. students are impressive. The inclusion of cognitive models of driving, an area only now being developed in the United States, as an integral component of the overall research plan merits careful examination.

Humanist Contact Information

Europe Recherche Transport SAS
Jean-Pierre Medevielle
C/O INRETS-Case 24
25 avenue Francois Mitterand
69675 Bron Cedex
Phone: +33 4 72 14 25 85

Children's Pedestrian Behavior

Since 1997, children in Norway have started school at age 6. Because Norway wishes to promote active children who walk or bike to school if possible, it is important to understand how children interact with traffic on their way to and from school. Thus, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration sponsored an observational study in Trondheim focusing on children aged 6 to 12.

The study used video recording as its observational method and examined zebra crossings, streets, and joint walkways for pedestrians and cyclists separated from car lanes. Results showed that the youngest children were most careful and follow the rules. Children walking alone, however, deviate from the rules more than children in a group. Young children had more difficulty deciding when to cross at a zebra crossing near a roundabout, although they did clearly understand how to push the button to obtain a green light. Additional research conducted on this topic used on-street interviews and surveys, qualitative in-depth interviews, and questionnaires for different age groups.

Children's Pedestrian Behavior Contact Information

Liv Ovstedal
N-7465 Trondheim
Phone +47 73598248

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Page last modified on November 7, 2014
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