Display computers, controllers, communication devices



How HMI display solutions can impact operator productivity in industrial vehicles

Written: Thursday, April 2, 2020 11:28:00 AM

Research indicates that well integrated systems lead to more attentive users, that retain more task related information, and stay focused for longer with less reported effort. These systems also fit into the wider development trends in off-highway machines that affect operator fatigue in day to day tasks.

The CrossControl platform is supported by the open and modular LinX Software Suite. The development tool chain, created by CrossControl, helps to enable a quick development of custom applications, facilitate bespoke parameter integration and reduce customer time to market. Available on all displays in the range, the LinX Software Suite also features ready-made software components and libraries that help further shorten the application design cycle. Through the included application examples it is easy to get started to build GUIs tailored for machine interaction, control, video and system monitoring, telematics and even embedded component for displaying PDF manuals. The LinX architecture, based on Linux and Qt, also makes it is easy to integrate additional open source components to further shorten the application design cycle and extend the platforms functionality.

Operator Comfort includes more than just the cushioning in their chair, it is everything that surrounds a driver as they operate a vehicle, steering wheel height, pedal positioning, seat support, harnessing and control interface. Research from Norway and Italy as part of an overall EU study looking into HMI in heavy machines has shown the importance of ergonomics in reducing operator fatigue and research from Markus Wallmyr, Head of UX at CrossControl and a researcher with Mälardalen University in Sweden has demonstrated the importance of display placement to facilitate good display use and information detection to avoid fatigue and improve user’s experience and perception of helpfulness. Additionally displays placed nearer the operator’s natural field of view can also increase information acquisition and retention, shown for example by Akyeampong in 2013. This can lead to quicker more accurate task completion and faster turnaround times, something that can have huge benefits in productivity as machine operators can take in guidance without additionally taxing their mental capacity. 

In industrial operations, fatigue may be an issue even for drivers working normal, daytime shifts as the study in 2008 from Friswell & Williamson, pointing to the growing number of hazards for the ‘wakeful-but-fatigued’ driver and supported by Matthews et al in 2011. One way to alleviate this issue is by employing eye tracking tools in the cabin that monitor operators and give warnings through the display when fatigue is detected. Under laboratory testing conditions, studies of vigilance have been especially important for investigating task-induced fatigue, as suggested by Davies & Parasuraman in 1982. In certain circumstances, even short-duration tasks requiring sustained attention can show rapid and operationally significant performance decrements as Temple et al. noted in 2000. The speed of this deterioration can be reduced if the operator is given increased support and guidance from the automation system and a good interaction via the vehicle display, reducing their mental load through task automation and computer guided operations, like depth control while digging trenches and slope control when landscaping a site. More recently, the problem of cognitive fatigue has surfaced in a range of performance contexts other than traditional vigilance paradigms as shown by Ackerman in a 2011 study. A variety of conditions influence the speed of the onset of fatigue including operator factors like sleep deprivation. High workload and monotonous tasks that give the machine user few opportunities to change their procedure appear to be the most vulnerable to the effects of fatigue as shown in the research carried out by Matthews et al in 2010. Giving users task flexibility and variety through changes in the display can help to break up this monotony and keep them feeling fresher during longer shifts. Conversely, tasks that offer high levels of challenge and intrinsic interest can be highly fatigue-resistant (Holding, 1983). Sleep loss, daylight, and task workload are three major areas of fatigue, but there remain yet other sources of fatigue. Environmental stressors may also exacerbate fatigue symptoms, as one of a range of 5 psychological symptoms produced by environmental stressors, as demonstrated by Hancock in 1984. These stressors may include loud noise, high temperatures, poor quality displays that elicit eye strain, and others. Thus, reducing these stressors in the vehicle can be of huge benefit to the operator and their productivity, for example through a comfortable air-conditioned, soundproofed cabin and a high quality operator interface presented via displays that are easy to read under all lightning conditions. Moreover, one of the additional benefits of the move to all electric vehicles is reduced operator fatigue. This could be attributed to the lower noise and cleaner air experienced by the operator during their shift. In recent tests some OEMS have noted that operators almost rush to select the newer all electric machines for shift work, noting that after their shift they feel noticeably less tired and more alert. As operators showed a preference for the new all electric vehicles, similarly, operators show a preference for vehicles with better integrated, and more intuitive, controls. More modern displays with crisper graphics and higher screen fidelity also offer reduced eye strain. Proper support during longer operation periods can also improve operators overall health over time, a comfortable chair and controls within easy reach are part of this solution. To help OEMs achieve this, the latest displays from CrossControl can be integrated directly into the armrest to provide additional HMI solutions within easy reach of any operator.

Operating heavy vehicles, for instance an excavator, requires a high level of attention to the vehicle, situational awareness and attention to the task. Efficiency and increased productivity are key to industry success, the continuing digital transformation taking place in industrial vehicles aims to improve productivity and user experience, but it can also increase the operator’s mental load; because of a higher demand of attention to instrumentation and controls. This can subsequently lead to a reduction in situation awareness and an increased risk of potentially fatal accidents. One way to mitigate this effect is to display key information directly within the operators’ field of view, which enhances information detectability through quick glances. This can be done today with a modular and flexible display solution, but the industry trend is towards using mixed reality interfaces in future implementations. As part to understand these new means of information placement, CrossControl has utilized eye-tracking to study users' attention to the task, situational awareness, and HMI. The results indicate the benefits of optimal display placement, and the hazards of poor location choice. Plus the study showed the positives available with mixed reality approaches, including windscreen projected solutions and depth of view corrected Heads Up Display. The more advanced implementations showed a lower reported mental workload and an improved rate in detection and assimilation of information.

OEMs want to find the best user experiences in interacting with their systems, so as to offer users, and contractors, the best return for their investment. Advanced visual capabilities are available on CrossControl displays due to the hardware accelerated graphics and powerful on board CPU. These allow for more dynamic wow-effect HMI solutions and the possibility to create user experiences that lead to greater information assimilation and a more positive user experience. Having wide range of displays to choose from, all capable of running the same software, thanks to the advantages of the LinX Software Suite, is a huge advantage to OEMs in being able to select the right fit for each machine without committing additional engineering resources to building new applications for each machine and each new display size. Additionally flexible integration solutions allow for displays to be installed in the dashboard, A-pillar, armrest or roof of any vehicle cab to create a harmonious HMI solution that benefits users. Smaller displays, such as the new 7” infinity style displays from CrossControl can be deployed in a flexible twin array system with each capable of all necessary tasks, allowing the user greater freedom in how they arrange their HMI and receive key information and guidance. 

As more and more information is being shared with the user through displays having them function as stand-alone pieces of equipment is becoming an obstacle to an integrated and smooth interaction, supporting dynamic use cases. The latest multifunctional display solutions from CrossControl allow OEMS to give users the resources they need for a comfortable and productive working environment. 

Driver in forestry machine cabin