Interview with Natacha Métayer, researcher in psychology and cognitive ergonomics at VEDECOM’s Laboratory of New Uses. Her specialty: eye-tracking, a discipline that studies ocular strategies, which can be used in a wide range of situations.

Studying ocular strategies to improve pedestrian-vehicle communication in autonomous vehicles
After getting a PhD in cognitive psychology, I decided to supplement my learning with a course in cognitive ergonomics. My passion? Eye-tracking: I’m specialised in the study of ocular strategies that are used when someone is looking at a training document. I’ve always worked in academics, so my current position at VEDECOM’s Laboratory of New Uses is my first experience working somewhere that’s not 100% academic and I’m thrilled! My mission there is to put forward new approaches to pedestrian-AV issues in the studies conducted by the Institute.

Identifying the best communication systems between the autonomous vehicle and its environment
I focus on identifying the information that pedestrians need in order to make the decision to cross the street: what are they going to look at first? Where is their point of gaze, etc. This helps us determine what elements in the pedestrians’ environment are needed for decision making, and where to position them.

For example, with the EVAPS project, also known as the Paris Saclay Autonomous Lab, I studied different visual communication systems used in autonomous vehicles to observe their impact on pedestrian behaviour. The study, carried out in a virtual environment, led to a design that was a combination of two communication solutions. Currently in the prototype phase, it is likely to be tested soon.

Designing the best autonomous vehicle with the help of scientific breakthroughs
My main objective is to be continuously learning and taking part in scientific breakthroughs. This is particularly true in the field of autonomous vehicles, where so much remains to be done: the challenge is finding a good balance between technological innovations and research in psychology and cognitive ergonomics for these new solutions at the international level. You must think ahead so products aren’t put on the market with obvious ergonomic defects.

Pooling resources to promote research
I really enjoy working as part of a team. What’s so motivating about working at VEDECOM is that teamwork happens under excellent conditions. I’ve learned a lot since coming here. We encountered a number of technical issues with the Paris Saclay Autonomous Lab. It was immensely satisfying when we finally started to get some workable results. But I’d say the best part about working at VEDECOM is the discussions we have, both formal and informal, between colleagues. Knowledge sharing is another important part of research for me, so I’d really be happy, in the long term, to supervise trainees and/or doctoral students.