The operation of agricultural vehicles is a multitask activity that requires proper distribution of attentional resources. Human factors theories suggest that proper utilization of the operator's sensory capacities under such conditions can improve the operator's performance and reduce the operator's workload. Using a tractor driving simulator, this study investigated whether auditory cues can be used to improve performance of the operator of an agricultural vehicle. Steering of a vehicle was simulated in visual mode (where driving error was shown to the subject using a lightbar) and in auditory mode (where a pair of speakers were used to convey the driving error direction and/or magnitude). A secondary task was also introduced in order to simulate the monitoring of an attached machine. This task included monitoring of two identical displays, which were placed behind the simulator, and responding to them, when needed, using a joystick. This task was also implemented in auditory mode (in which a beep signaled the subject to push the proper button when a response was needed) and in visual mode (in which there was no beep and visual monitoring of the displays was necessary). Two levels of difficulty of the monitoring task were used. Deviation of the simulated vehicle from a desired straight line was used as the measure of performance in the steering task, and reaction time to the displays was used as the measure of performance in the monitoring task. Results of the experiments showed that steering performance was significantly better when steering was a visual task (driving errors were 40% to 60% of the driving errors in auditory mode), although subjective evaluations showed that auditory steering could be easier, depending on the implementation. Performance in the monitoring task was significantly better for auditory implementation (reaction time was approximately 6 times shorter), and this result was strongly supported by subjective ratings. The majority of the subjects preferred the combination of visual mode for the steering task and auditory mode for the monitoring task.
Full article can be found in: Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
Access this publication at: ASABE Technical Library
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