A New Design of Human-Machine Interaction for Steering Articulated Truck Combinations
The main reason for accidents involving trucks or truck combinations is the lack of situation
awareness. Drivers of particularly articulated truck combinations need a high level of awareness
about the state of the vehicle combination and its surroundings. The current steering interface sets
limits on the signals that the driver can perceive and the way the driver can act. I see an opportunity
to break these limits on the interaction by introducing a new steering interface.
The new interface is intuitive and designed specially for articulated truck combinations. The
interface consists of two physical walls on the left and right side of the driver, an active touch panel
in front of the driver, and air vibration generators on the left and right side. The driver controls the
lateral position of the truck by controlling the position of the walls. The idea is that the driver can
easily associate the lateral position of the truck between the lane boundaries with the position of his
or her own body between the walls. Further, the driver perceives a map of the surroundings by
feeling and following surfaces on the active touch panel. Moving surfaces on the active touch panel
represent the truck, trailers, road boundaries, and other traffic users. Important information about
upcoming traffic is given through air vibrations that are sent by the air vibration generators towards
the driver’s hand.
The new interface is designed for highly automated driving, where automation allows the truck to
follow a lane at a certain speed. The driver still actively participates in the control of the vehicle, and
is always in direct control of the walls. There is thus only one mode and there is no need to switch
between modes. If for any reason it is desired or needed that the vehicle does not follow a lane or
course, then the driver can use the walls to control the heading of the truck.
The main strength of the new interface lies in the high level of intuitiveness. The definition that is
adopted for the term ‘intuitive’ in the context of driving is ‘easy to associate the vehicle with (part
of) your own body’. The association is made through similarities in the order of control, sense mode,
space, and time. Furthermore, the new interface exploits the possibilities with the haptic senses,
which are the senses that allow us to physically feel our own body and our environment. Unlike
other senses, the haptic senses are closely coupled with the motor function. After all, very often we
use the same body part to manipulate as with which we sense haptic cues.
Surely, at this stage of the design, the effectiveness of the new interface cannot be proven. For now,
we can only reason and argue. The effectiveness depends on different aspects, such as the driver’s
ability to operate the walls, the driver’s ability to perceive and understand the haptic information,
and the technologies for steer-by-wire and detecting lane markings. Physical prototypes of the walls
and the touch panel have given more insight about the effectiveness, intuitiveness, and comfort.
The prototypes have also helped to imagine what the new driving experience would be like. In
particular, simple tests have been performed with the prototype of the walls in a real truck on a test
articulated truck combinations
Human-Machine Interaction (HMI)