Interface Development for Semi-Autonomous Trucks : Visual and Auditory Feedback
Vehicles are becoming increasingly autonomous, as automotive industries are investing in innovative technology. Therefore the technology becomes more available and affordable, making it possible for Toyota Material Handling Europe (TMHE) to introduce automated features in their trucks. Vehicles that have a forward collision warning system, and thus are partly autonomous, are involved in less accidents than those without. In manufacturing industries there is currently a problem with truck collisions and an automated solution might be a suitable way to prevent these. When implementing an automation device, human machine interaction and user-friendliness are aspects to keep in mind during the development.
The thesis concerns how autonomous features can assist the truck driver, and how to provide the driver with intuitive feedback. The purpose was to ensure the drivers’ and surrounding personnel’s safety as well as increase the productivity. Research was performed regarding in what situation an assisting device is needed and how to communicate information in an intuitive manner to help the driver in this situation. A conceptual interface was developed that allows communication between the driver and a future all-knowing system, that tracks all objects and personnel in a warehouse.
The drivers have had a central role in the process. The observations were performed in the TMHE warehouse to identify situations. The most perilous and frequent situation was when drivers need to focus both in the fork and drive wheel directions simultaneously. This either puts the surroundings or the driver in danger. A conceptual interface was developed to help the driver in this situation. This resulted in a concept implementable in both current and future trucks, to harmonise the solution and ensure a safe warehouse environment. A lo-fi prototype was constructed and evaluated iteratively with drivers to ensure the quality and usability of the concept.
The resulting feedback solution consists of sounds from speakers mounted in the headrest and a display interface with warning symbols. The sounds are directional to notify the driver if the danger is to the left or right behind his back. If the danger is only semi-close, the driver receives a warning, but if it is very close, the truck is stopped autonomously. The symbols appear on the display simultaneously as the sounds are heard, to provide further feedback. Additionally, an Autonomous Positioning feature has been developed, that consists of symbols and buttons on the display interface, as well as an alert sound from the display to indicate the system’s activation and deactivation. Safety is enhanced since neither personnel nor trucks are in risk of collision when implementing the concept. As the concept helps the driver position the truck effortlessly towards the pallet the productivity is also improved.
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