Automation in airport security X-ray screening of cabin baggage: Examining benefits and possible implementations of automated explosives detection
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Bomb attacks on civil aviation make detecting improvised explosive devices and explosive material in passenger baggage a major concern. In the last few years, explosive detection systems for cabin baggage screening (EDSCB) have become available. Although used by a number of airports, most countries have not yet implemented these systems on a wide scale. We investigated the benefits of EDSCB with two different levels of automation currently being discussed by regulators and airport operators: automation as a diagnostic aid with an on-screen alarm resolution by the airport security officer (screener) or EDSCB with an automated decision by the machine. The two experiments reported here tested and compared both scenarios and a condition without automation as baseline. Participants were screeners at two international airports who differed in both years of work experience and familiarity with automation aids. Results showed that experienced screeners were good at detecting improvised explosive devices even without EDSCB. EDSCB increased only their detection of bare explosives. In contrast, screeners with less experience (tenure < 1 year) benefitted substantially from EDSCB in detecting both improvised explosive devices and bare explosives. A comparison of all three conditions showed that automated decision provided better human–machine detection performance than on-screen alarm resolution and no automation. This came at the cost of slightly higher false alarm rates on the human–machine system level, which would still be acceptable from an operational point of view. Results indicate that a wide-scale implementation of EDSCB would increase the detection of explosives in passenger bags and automated decision instead of automation as diagnostic aid with on screen alarm resolution should be considered.