Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory

Donald L. Fisher
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Siby Samuel
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Alexander Pollatsek
Department of Psychology

Assistant Director
Michael Knodler, Jr.
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Massachusetts Transportation Center

The Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory (HPL) is a multi-disciplinary research facility at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, based in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

Since the HPL’s founding in the 1980s, the lab’s research has focused on driver behavior and driver safety. This research has contributed to the understanding of driving, and the identification of factors that:
  • increase the crash risk of novice and older drivers
  • impact the effectiveness of traffic signs, signals, and pavement markings
  • improve the interface of in-vehicle equipment such as forward collision warning systems, back over collision warning systems, and music retrieval systems, and
  • influence drivers’ understanding of advanced parking management systems, advanced traveler information systems, and dynamic message signs
The HPL has created PC-based programs to help train drivers to anticipate potential roadway hazards, and to maintain their attention on the forward roadway. HPL researchers have already and continue to investigate the transferability of the skills learned in these program to driving simulator and real roadway situations.

The lab’s driving research is conducted using two state-of-the-art driving simulators, advanced simulator software, and equipment such as eye trackers, head trackers, and portable camera systems that can be used both in the lab and in the field. The lab’s main driving simulator purchased in 1994 in part with funds from the National Science Foundation, and was upgraded with new computers and new software in 2008.

A secondary area of research for the HPL involves medical patient records and using eye trackers to understand patient identification systems and help reduce misidentification of patients and improve patient safety.

The HPL’s graduate students, at both the masters and doctoral level, form the nucleus of the lab’s research team, and work close with the lab’s affiliated faculty and researchers.

Close ties exist between the Human Factors and Ergonomics Program in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, the Cognitive Program in the Department of Psychology, the Transportation Engineering Program in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the University of Massachusetts Transportation Center. The lab’s research involves working with these and other University of Massachusetts departments, local, state, and federal agencies, as well as other public and private research sponsors.


We regularly offer tours of the Human Performance Laboratory to interested individuals or groups. We can schedule a group most any time of the week and often on the weekends if that is more convenient. We encourage school groups to visit our laboratory and the other laboratories in the College of Engineering. Recent visitors include:


  • Harvard Medical School
  • Schepens Eye Institute -
  • Holyoke High School -
  • Smith Vocational School -
  • Wildwood Elementary School -
  • Marks Meadow Elementary School


  • General Motors
  • Lucent
  • Millitech
  • Stanley Electric
Public Agencies
  • Connecticut DOT
  • Pioneer Valley Transit Authority
  • Western Massachusetts Safety Council

Individuals interested in visiting the Human Performance Laboratory can come directly to campus and schedule an appointment with someone here. The lab is located on the first floor of the Engineering Lab Building (Elab 1) at the northwest corner of the University of Massachusetts campus near the intersections of Holdsworth and Natural Resources Roads (click here for directions). Alternatively, you can call the lab at 413-545-3393 during most weekdays or email