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Publication Number: FHWA-RD-95-197
Date: December 1996

Development of Human Factors Guidelines for Advanced Traveler Information Systems and Commercial Vehicle Operations: Comparable Systems Analysis

 

CHAPTER 6. THE OmniTRACS MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS TERMINAL

 

GENERAL SYSTEM DESCRIPTION AND OBJECTIVES

USER INTERFACE

DESIGN GUIDELINES USED

LESSONS LEARNED

 

GENERAL SYSTEM DESCRIPTION AND OBJECTIVES

The OmniTRACS system, developed by QUALCOMM Incorporated, is a two–way mobile satellite communications and vehicle–tracking system designed for use in Commercial Vehicle Operations (CVO). This system was commercially available for use in 1988 and is now currently utilized by over 225 customers and is installed in over 50,000 trucks. The design of the OmniTRACS system was based primarily on the current demands of the CVO industry. Unlike the other six systems included in this report that are still at the prototype or testing phase, OmniTRACS has been introduced into the commercial market and has been favorably accepted since its initial deployment.

The design of the OmniTRACS system was customized to the needs of the CVO customer (i.e., motor carrier/trucking company). CVO customer needs differ from the needs of the typical ATIS user (e.g., leisure driver). One of the greatest costs involved in CVO is related to the amount of idle and wasted time the driver spends in trying to find a telephone to contact dispatch with information such as arrival and departure times, billing information, delays, emergencies, and loading/unloading information. Dispatchers are responsible for the scheduling and routing of up to 60 drivers/tractor units, which means that drivers are often placed on hold or cannot get through at all. This frequently creates a bottleneck in the CVO system that translates into increased costs, low productivity, and driver dissatisfaction. Ultimately, it translates into dissatisfied clients (i.e., shippers and consignees), which motor carriers rely on for business.

The objective of the OmniTRACS system was to enhance the customer's communication with and the control of their CVO equipment (i.e., trucks and trailers). The ATIS/CVO functions provided by OmniTRACS are denoted in table 5. These functions were achieved by designing a Mobile Communications Terminal (MCT) to be installed in each vehicle, which consisted of three hardware units: an outdoor antenna, a communications unit, and a display unit. This satellite–based MCT allows drivers to be in constant touch with dispatchers who also have a computer–aided system to continuously track the location of each driver/truck. Forward host–based data (e.g., load assignments) are sent directly to the appropriate truck or fleet of trucks. This driver–dispatcher data link also allows motor carriers to access vehicle–based data (e.g., driving statistics, engine diagnostics) via optional Vehicle Information Systems. All messages and positioning information from the vehicles are transmitted, via satellite, through the QUALCOMM Network Management Center to dispatch centers nationwide.

 

Table 5. Comparison of OmniTRACS functions with those from ATIS/CVO systems.

Subsystem Function OmniTRACS
  Trip Planning  
  Multi-Mode Travel Coordination  
  Pre-Drive Route and Destination Selection *
  Dynamic Route Selection  
IRANS Route Navigation  
  Route Guidance *
  Automated Toll Collection  
  Route Scheduling (CVO-Specific) *
  Computer-Aided Dispatch (CVO-Specific) *
  Broadcast Services/Attractions  
IMSIS Services/Attractions Directory  
  Destination Coordination  
  Message Transfer *
  Roadway SignðCGuidance  
ISIS Roadway SignðCNotification  
  Roadway SignðCRegulatory  
  Immediate Hazard Warning  
  Roadway Condition Information *
IVSAWS Automatic Aid  
  Manual Aid Request *
  Vehicle Condition Monitoring *
  Cargo and Vehicle Monitoring (CVO-Specific) *
  Fleet Resource Management *
CVO-Specific Dispatch *
  Regulatory Administration *
  Regulatory Enforcement  

 

Network Management Center (NMC)

The function of QUALCOMM's Network Management Center (NMC) is similar to the Advanced Traveler Management Systems (ATMS) component proposed in ITS applications. All information from fleet vehicles and dispatch centers passes through the NMC, which monitors and logs messages. Each motor carrier is charged a fee for the number and the length of the messages they transmit. The NMC, where all messages are processed, is located in San Diego, California, and is staffed 24 hours a day. A fully equipped backup station is located in Las Vegas, Nevada.

As the hub for the entire OmniTRACS system, the NMC features two DEC VAX 6410 computer cluster systems (one acts as a backup). All communications are transmitted via satellite through a 7.6–m dish. The satellite service is provided by GTE aboard an existing satellite and QUALCOMM is guaranteed that transponders will be available from one of the three GTE satellites. Communications to the NMC are supported through dedicated leased lines, dial–up services, or time–share networks. QUALCOMM operates the largest transportation communications center in the world via numerous communication protocols supported at the NMC. Further investigation of this NMC seems warranted for future research on Automated Traffic Management Systems functions and design.

 

Computer–Aided Dispatch

QUALCOMM has developed various software products to enhance the dispatcher's organizational and communications tasks. Many different hardware platforms (PC's, LAN's, mid–range, and mainframe systems) can be used to run these programs. These software packages are intended to automate the motor carrier's functions and to integrate with already–existing transportation software available for dispatchers, such as accounting, dispatch, sales order entry, maintenance requests, personnel data, and payroll. The dispatcher's interface to the OmniTRACS system may be the greatest selling point to potential customers. Once the software products are loaded on the company's dispatch computer systems, the dispatch process is automated to a real–time process by linking vehicle information transmitted by the OmniTRACS system. For example, one group of software products dynamically optimized the operations of truckload carriers by considering key facts, forecasts, and management priorities to recommend the right truck for a certain load. This program maximizes revenue per truck per day and minimizes cost. Another group of software programs integrates vehicle information systems and compiles data generated by a vehicle's on–board sensors and subsystems to enhance overall fleet management. The objectives of this optional set of software programs were to provide the capability to produce performance statistics reports, vehicle diagnostics data, and trailer status information.

Vehicle locations are displayed to dispatchers in text format or on a map display, as specified by the dispatcher. Text formats provide the number of miles to the nearest city/landmark and to the nearest large city. Another software package passes position and location history from the host computer to a PC computer with a VGA color graphics monitor for mapping. Mapping features include: displaying major cities, State lines, highways, and roads; aiding in the process of calculating estimated times of arrival (ETA's); allowing reduced–scale capability for the dispatcher to zoom in on a specific vehicle or landmark; entering customer's locations as landmarks on the map (and in text format); color–coding vehicles by class; and displaying current capacity and demand status of the fleet. QUALCOMM's satellite triangulation technique provides position reporting accurate to within 305 m.

 

Mobile Communications Terminal (MCT) Driver Display Unit

The driver is continuously linked to dispatch through the Mobile Communications Terminal (MCT) display unit mounted in the truck cab. Through this unit, the driver reads incoming messages and assignments, and can send messages to dispatch. While there are few limitations on the content of text messages provided by dispatch, the system is not capable of providing drivers with route guidance and navigational information via map displays. Navigation information is not the focus of the communications link between drivers and dispatchers. The transmission of position and location data through the OmniTRACS system was intended as a benefit for fleet management rather than an enhancement of driver navigation tasks. The design of the driver interface emphasized ease of use and acceptance by truck drivers in their normal operations.

 

Customer–Driven Support

The configuration of each system is different. Several options are available, and each unit can be customized to the customer's needs. After motor carriers understand the various features and optional software packages and how each can enhance their company's functions, QUALCOMM delivers the OmniTRACS hardware components, configures the system, and establishes communications links according to the customer's specifications. They also demonstrate or perform installation procedures, provide Driver's Manuals and Reference Cards for each unit, and suggest training programs to teach drivers and dispatchers how to use the system. This continued relationship with each customer has been the basis for QUALCOMM's evaluation of their design.

The analysis that follows is based on the information obtained from two applications of the OmniTRACS system, each configured to the specific requirements of the motor carrier. Since the system can support a variety of configurations and options to meet the various needs of diverse CVO customers, the analysis was performed at a higher level than for the other systems in this report. Specific design issues relevant to ATIS applications are raised in the context of the applications observed and may not reflect other possible configurations of this system. The emphasis of the analysis was on the interface of the on–board display unit used by the driver.

 

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USER INTERFACE

General Description

The Mobile Communications Terminal (MCT) display unit is installed in the cab of trucks as determined by the motor carrier. The dimensions of the display unit are 29 cm long x 19 cm wide x 7 cm deep and weighs 1.1 kg (figure 47). It fits into a support bracket (i.e., holster) that is permanently attached to a sturdy panel. The MCT functions on power from the vehicle and has a coiled power cord that can be extended several feet.

The system is not intended to be used while the vehicle is in motion. Therefore, the MCT is typically installed by the customer so that the driver cannot see text displayed on the screen when the unit is in the holster. The drivers are instructed by the motor carrier to remove the MCT display unit from the holster and read/enter messages when they are parked. Drivers that were interviewed reported that the unit is easily retrieved from the holster located (with one motor carrier) below the dash panel, to the right of their legs, near the floorboard, next to the gearshift. Drivers hold the unit with one hand or support it on their laps or on the steering wheel when reading or entering information.

Dimensions of the MCT display unit

The keyboard and display terminal of the OmniTRACS MCT is designed to be rugged and portable. All three hardware components, MCT communications unit, and antenna are designed to endure temperatures between –30E C to 70E C and much shock and vibration.

 

Visual Information Display

The display unit has a 5–cm by 13–cm, back-lit Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) message screen that displays 4 lines of text, 40 characters/line (figure 48). The back lighting can be turned on or off by pressing one of the control keys to the left of the keyboard. The display unit is automatically activated when the vehicle's ignition is turned on and will remain on for a period of time to be established by the dispatcher (up to 60 minutes) after the vehicle is powered down.

Features of the MCT display unit

The main VIEW STATUS screen (figure 49) appears at start–up and indicates the time (for the driver-specified time zone) and date, whether the system status is "good," number of unread messages from dispatch, and number of messages being sent by the driver. The system has a buffer that allows drivers to send a maximum of three consecutive messages.

Display units STATUS VIEW screen at start-up

The information content of text messages varies depending on the application and can be as long as 50 lines. The system allows various types of informationðCeither sent by dispatch or collected by vehicle monitoring systemsðCto be made available to the driver. There are no hardware limitations as to the content of messages. However, QUALCOMM does provide specific software products capable of providing specialized information links to customers that include the following:

  • Directions.
  • Routing.
  • Comments.
  • Basic Check Calls.
  • Driver-Entered ETA.
  • Location Validation.
  • Load Assignments.
  • Customer Service.
  • Maintenance Information.
  • Personnel.
  • Accounting.
  • Weather/Accident Reports.

All messages received from dispatch are displayed to the driver in uppercase text (figure 50). Messages created and sent by drivers are seen on the screen in lowercase text (figure 51). The case distinction enables drivers to readily determine the source of messages when drivers review previous messages. Messages can be received or transmitted whether vehicles are stationary or in motion. If desired, an axle sensor option enables customers to halt interaction between the MCT and display unit when the vehicle is in motion. A wake-up timer feature operates when the unit is turned off that "wakes up" the unit at periodic intervals (defined by the dispatcher) and downloads messages.

Sample text message received by driver

 

Sample text message created and sent by driver

Upon request, dispatch can send drivers information about routes to a shipper/consignee location if that information is available. The level of information depends on the route planning databases or software connected to the dispatcher's system (e.g., Rand McNally's Mile Maker or ALK's PC*MILER). The routing information can be developed internally by a carrier by creating a database of instructions from actual drivers who have previously made a delivery/pick–up to the same destination.

Two red MESSAGE WAITING lights, one on the front and one on top of the unit, light up when a message is received. The lights flash if one of the messages received is a priority message (i.e., needs immediate driver attention). When the red light to the right of the message screen is lit, it indicates NO SIGNAL from the satellite is being received by the unit's antenna.

 

Auditory Information Display

The display unit emits a tone (beep) when a message is received from dispatch. The sound level of this tone is adjustable by the driver. The pattern of beeps emitted indicates the priority of the message and corresponds to the flashing of the message waiting lights (i.e., one beep indicates a message was received, three consecutive beeps indicates a priority message was received). Some drivers perceive single beeps to be similar to those heard through other on–board electronics (e.g., CB radio) and report false alarms in which they thought a message was received. They had to repeatedly check the status of the message light to determine whether a message was received.

The unit also emits two beeps whenever the driver presses a key that the system cannot act upon (e.g., pressing READ PREV when there are no previous messages listed). During training and in the Driver's Manual, drivers are told that the system is designed so that any key can be pressed at any time without damaging the system or losing typed information.

 

User Input (Controls)

The majority of the controls are discrete keys and include dedicated function keys, arrow (cursor) keys, a standard QWERTY keyboard, and a numeric key pad (figure 52). The entire control panel is constructed of an elastomeric–type material and is "splash–resistant" against contaminants. The screen backlight control key allows the driver to set the screen backlighting on or off. The audio control and contrast control rocker switches (continuous settings) adjust the volume of the message waiting beeps and the contrast of the text screen.

MCT display unit controls

The blue dedicated function keys above the keyboard activate specific screens to read or enter information. A driver can access incoming messages by pressing the READ NEXT key; the READ PREV key is used to review a previous message. The memory stores 99 messages that can be reviewed by pressing the READ PREV key. The REPLY key initiates a reply to a message just read. The CREATE MSG key is used to create a new message and the SEND key calls up the option to transmit the entered message. The left and right arrows, ENTER, and DEL keys are used to edit text; and the + or – keys allow the driver to run through a list of company–defined, pre–formatted messages. These pre–formatted, fill–in–the–blank messages are designed to allow motor carriers to structure commonly used messages to minimize the number of characters the driver has to enter. For example, "Departing Information" could be a pre–formatted message in which the driver simply sends the time–stamped message with number of pallets loaded or other information.

The QWERTY keyboard and numeric key pad are used to enter alphanumeric text when creating messages and entering information. Drivers can scroll through a message by pressing the down arrow key. The screen indicates that there is more information beyond what is being displayed by using a 8 and/or 9 to the left of the text.

One of the main objectives in the design of this system was to ensure its ease of use by means of simple function keys. As the system was purchased by motor carriers, requests for additional features were made and those features were slowly incorporated into the system by adding them onto an OPTIONS function that allows access to several screens of information.

All the labels on the controls are black. The top row of dedicated function keys are blue and the rest are white. The Y and N keys, which are used most frequently, are a gray color to distinguish them from the rest. Drivers report that the darker color does allow them to find the Y and N keys easily in daylight conditions, but not in darkened conditions. They reported that tactile information (e.g., an etched key) could be helpful in identifying the two keys in the dark. Most drivers said the screen was easy to read in the dark, but it was difficult to enter messages using the keyboard at night without a cab light on. When prompted, the drivers agreed that having illuminated labels on all keys could make the system much easier to use in reduced–lighting conditions.

 

Communications Systems

The communications unit installed underneath the cab of the vehicle provides the computing capability to send and receive digital (i.e., text) messages to and from the truck. A decoder and microprocessor were designed to provide reliable signal processing capability. The manufacturer provides its own automatic satellite position reporting system to link fleet vehicles with dispatch centers and the NMC. This system utilizes existing electronics and satellite triangulation methods to provide vehicle position reports accurate to approximately 305 m. Drivers reported that the system loses the satellite signal when overhead objects block the direct line of sight between the antenna and the satellite. Position information directly impacts dispatchers' vehicle–tracking tasks and mapping capabilities.

 

Cognitive Demands

The issue of shared attentional demandsðCof great concern in the ATIS areaðCis not directly relevant with this system when it is used as recommended. This system was designed to be used while the vehicle is stationary. Customers are made aware of the limitations and intent of the system and are given the option of configuring the system to "lock out" the driver when the vehicle axles are in motion. The training materials and sessions provided by the manufacturer instruct drivers not to use the unit when in motion.

The display unit has a warning notice etched into the display explicitly instructing drivers not to use the system while driving (figure 53).

Warning notice engraved on front of MCT display unit

The Driver's Manual also states a similar message:

Never use your MCT while you are driving. This will divert your attention from the road and could lead to a serious accident.

A lesson learned when we interviewed several drivers was that drivers do use the system while driving. When drivers use the system while the vehicle is in motion, the issue of cognitive demand is relevant, just as in ATIS systems. The allocation of attentional resources required to perform a secondary task utilizing an in–vehicle system may hinder driving performance and safety. Insufficient research data exist to set a criteria for attentional resource requirements in a driving task or for secondary tasks. The number of factors and individual characteristics, plus the dynamic and complex nature of the driving task, make it difficult for research efforts to provide useful data. In CVO applications, there is even less data to make such recommendations. However, this issue must be resolved before in–vehicle systems can be confidently designed without jeopardizing driver safety.

In interviews, several truck drivers who admitted using the OmniTRACS system while driving said that they did not feel that it reduced their level of safety any more than the existing systems and paper maps that they already use. The benefits, on the other hand, completely outweighed the current system requirements and increased their job performance.

 

System Temporal Requirements

The LCD screen seemed to respond at a rate that did not affect data entry tasks. Some drivers reported a slight lag in messages being sent to dispatch, but it was acceptable in most cases. Drivers said the system does not indicate when dispatch reads their messages. In the observed system, the driver was informed that messages were sent to the dispatch center, but they had no idea when the dispatcher received or read the message. This feature did not seem to be a limitation of the system, but an aspect of the procedures developed by the customer.

 

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DESIGN GUIDELINES USED

Human Factors Design Guidelines

The OmniTRACS design team seems to have been composed mostly of personnel from engineering and marketing. The objective of the first prototype was to meet the specific communications needs of commercial vehicle operations. There were no human factors members in the design team and it is uncertain whether human factors guidelines were used to design the driver or dispatcher interface. Once the needs of the CVO industry were delineated, the design team relied on available technology and cost–benefit decisions in selecting the components of the driver interface.

 

Other Guidelines

The evaluation of this system by QUALCOMM has been based primarily on its market use and consumer feedback. The success of the system was measured by the increased productivity and reduced costs of the customer (i.e., motor carriers, trucking companies), driver comments, and design team review. After company–mandated beta testing, the prototype was installed in a fleet of 5,000 vehicles belonging to the largest truck load carrier in the United States. This resulted in field–tested, positive reviews from various drivers, interested customers, and other members of the CVO industry. While engineers working on improving the system admit that the system could be enhanced considerably if customers supported the increase in cost, they also say the customers like the system as designed. The heavy use of this system and positive customer feedback has led QUALCOMM to feel that the system is well designed and meets the needs of the CVO industry. Therefore, few alterations in the driver interface have been made since the first prototype, although changes may occur in the future.

Some of the design criteria emphasized environmental abuse (e.g., truck vibrations, temperature, humidity, impacts) in the trucking industry. For example, the existing size of the LCD screen seemed appropriate for the anticipated temperatures and vibrations in long–haul trucks, and integrating the display screen and keyboard into one "unit" or "terminal" was thought to be more practical and would endure more impacts.

Ease of installation was a primary design goal. All three components of the MCT system were designed to be installed in 2 to 4 hours and would be easily configured to different types of truck styles. The holster for the display unit can be mounted on any existing panel, allowing the customer to install the MCT to fit the types of trucks in their fleet.

The interface was designed to be user–friendly to a population with little computer knowledge and perhaps a dislike for computer–based products. The use of dedicated function keys was expected to simplify the interface and reduce the number of menu levels necessary. This guideline resulted in what drivers report to be an easy system to use. The design team is currently upgrading the system's functions. Whether these added features will require introducing more menu levels/options to each dedicated function key or integrating more dedicated function keys has yet to be determined.

Guidelines in the development of a training program revolved around simplicity, brevity, and ease of understanding. One customer developed its own training program to instruct drivers on the proper use of the MCT. Two hours of classroom demonstration were given as part of the company's general training program. Additional in–vehicle instruction also was integrated into the training. The Driver's Manual was designed to be brief, easy to read, and easy to find necessary information. A Driver's Reference card also was provided that showed drivers how to perform the most essential tasks (i.e., reading and sending messages).

 

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LESSONS LEARNED

[OM 01] LCD DISPLAYS CAN PRODUCE GLARE WHEN DIRECT SUNLIGHT IS SHINING IN THE VEHICLE

  • LCD screens can produce glare, especially when the sunlight is over the driver's left shoulder and shining on the unit or on reflective surfaces.

  • LCD screens should be designed to minimize glare.

[OM 02] ADJUSTABLE DISPLAYS ALLEVIATE GLARE PROBLEMS

  • Since some drivers hold the unit on their lap, or with one hand, glare problems seem to be remedied easily by changing the angle of the display screen. While this led drivers to respond that glare was not a problem, when prompted, they did say glare could be a problem at times.

  • ATIS system display angle should be readily adjustable to the driver's preference.

[OM 03] DIRECT SUNLIGHT MAKES THE ACTIVATION OF WARNING LIGHTS DIFFICULT TO DETECT

  • It was difficult for drivers to detect whether the red MESSAGE WAITING lights were lighted (or flashing) when direct sunlight was present.

  • An auditory beep may provide necessary message waiting notice under direct lighting conditions.

[OM 04] LCD DISPLAYS REQUIRE BACKLIGHTING AND CONTRAST CONTROL

  • In order to read text on the LCD screen under various conditions of lighting (from dawn to dusk), drivers reported that they relied on the back–lighting and contrast controls.

  • Contrast and illumination controls should be made available to enhance visibility.

[OM 05] TEXT–BASED DISPLAYS THAT LACK "WRAP–AROUND" CAPABILITY CAN BE CONFUSING

  • Drivers from one carrier complained that the words within messages and route information were broken up due to the lack of "wrapping text" and this made messages more difficult to understand. After reviewing one example of a typical message, it was evident that increased time was necessary to read and understand such messages.

  • Display wording should remain intact and hyphenation should be kept to a minimum in order to facilitate message comprehension.

[OM 06] DRIVERS SOMETIMES SPILL BEVERAGES ON IN–VEHICLE EQUIPMENT

  • The splash–resistant MCT display unit seemed to tolerate instances reported by drivers in which a beverage (e.g., coffee, soda, or water) was spilled over the screen and keyboard. The drivers reported relief when the unit's operation was not affected.

  • ATIS/CVO displays and controls should be splash–resistant.

[OM 07] AUDITORY SIGNALS MAY BE MASKED BY, OR CONFUSED WITH, OTHER SOUNDS AND NOISES

  • Besides the higher level of noise found in trucks versus cars, truck drivers typically have several other types of equipment in their vehicles. Two drivers with CB radios in their cabs said the beeps that occur when messages are received sound very similar to beeps emitted by CB communications. This causes false alarms and leads drivers to look at the light on top of the unit much more frequently than needed. Increased head–down time can lead to greater probability of near–incidents and accidents.

  • Auditory information must be unique and easily discernible from background sounds.

[OM 08] TEXT–BASED ROUTE GUIDANCE DISPLAY IS PREFERRED OVER VERBAL INSTRUCTIONS AND MAPS

  • Drivers relied on verbal instructions from dispatch and from conversations with the consignee to obtain route guidance to a destination. Some drivers supplemented this information with their personally purchased city maps. All drivers preferred the OmniTRACS system for route guidance over traditional methods.

  • Drivers seemed to favor the use of text–based navigation displays over baseline procedures using paper maps.

[OM 09] NAVIGATION/ROUTE GUIDANCE FEATURES ARE NOT ESSENTIAL TO LONG–HAUL TRUCK DRIVERS

  • Route guidance and navigation information was not a primary objective in the design of OmniTRACS. Some carriers have established interstate/highway routes that drivers are supposed to follow. Therefore, alternate routes and route planning are not necessary. Also, after repeated trips to the same destination, routes are easily remembered.

[OM 10] NAVIGATION/ROUTE GUIDANCE FEATURES CAN BE HELPFUL WITHIN CITY LIMITS

  • Within city limits, some drivers do rely on verbal route instructions or city maps to reach an unfamiliar destination.

  • In–vehicle navigation may be helpful for inner city and suburban CVO applications.

[OM 11] FOLLOWING TEXT–BASED ROUTE GUIDANCE INFORMATION IS NOT DIFFICULT

  • Drivers reported that following text–based route guidance information on the display was easier and probably safer to use than following written instructions on paper or using paper maps.

  • Text–based route guidance is feasible in CVO applications.

[OM 12] PRE–FORMATTED MESSAGES DECREASE THE AMOUNT OF DATA INPUT NEEDED IN REQUESTING ASSISTANCE

  • The system is designed with a set of pre–formatted (i.e., "canned") priority messages intended for use when the vehicle breaks down. The time, date, and location of the vehicle are automatically sent to the company's maintenance/repair department when the driver sends the message.

  • Users should be allowed to define short text–based messages that can be sent at the touch of a button.

[OM 13] DEDICATED EMERGENCY RESPONSE BUTTON IS VALUABLE FOR TRANSPORTING CERTAIN TYPES OF CARGO

  • An automatic emergency response button provides the driver with the ability to call for immediate assistance at the push of a button. This feature is currently mandated for certain types of load assignments involving a Defense Transport Tracking System shipment.

  • Requests for assistance should be made at the touch of a button.

[OM 14] ROAD ASSISTANCE REQUESTS CAN BE IMPEDED BY A TRUCK POWER FAILURE/SHUTDOWN

  • Problems were encountered when the vehicle's power was disabled, which could affect the ability of the system to send the message or acknowledge that the message was actually transmitted.

  • A backup power source should be available in case of vehicle power failure.

[OM 15] KEYBOARDS WITH QWERTY LAYOUT ARE PREFERRED OVER ABCDEF LAYOUT

  • A short pilot study by the OmniTRACS design team indicated that even drivers with very little, if any, typing experience preferred the QWERTY keyboard layout as opposed to an alphabetic keyboard layout.

  • A QWERTY keyboard layout may be preferable over alphabetical keyboard layouts for typing specific text messages to communicate with dispatchers.

[OM 16] DEDICATED FUNCTION CONTROLS SIMPLIFY THE INTERFACE

  • The interface was designed to be user–friendly for drivers who did not have any experience using computers and may be hesitant to use one. The use of dedicated function keys was expected to simplify the interface and reduce the number of menu levels necessary to use the various features of the system.

  • Dedicated function keys and a small number of menu levels were successful in simplifying the ATIS system interface.

[OM 17] DRIVERS FIND GREAT BENEFIT IN VIEWING MESSAGES ON THE SCREEN WHILE DRIVING

  • Some drivers suggested that the greatest benefit of this system was that they were not forced to interrupt their route to find a phone and contact dispatch. To some of the drivers interviewed, the instructions to discontinue their driving and pull over to communicate through the system seemed to contradict the function of the system.

  • These drivers admitted that they found great value in reading messages from the display as the messages were received, especially route guidance messages. One driver cited an occasion when he received a message while he was on a bridge with slow–moving traffic. Pulling over was not possible for an unforeseen amount of time, so he had to read the message while driving.

[OM 18] DRIVING PERFORMANCE USING IN–VEHICLE DISPLAYS MAY BE COMPARABLE TO USING PAPER MAPS OR OTHER EQUIPMENT

  • When drivers divide their attention between the primary task of driving and the secondary task of reading or typing messages, they reported that their performance on both tasks could be affected. While most of these drivers were aware of the hazards involved in doing both tasks simultaneously, some of them implied that the benefits outweighed the perceived risk. They reported that the system was so easy to use that with caution, concentration, and practice, they could maintain their level of driving performance and reduce the risk involved.

  • Drivers did not feel that operating the OmniTRACS equipment hindered their driving performance any more than reading maps or written instructions, or operating other equipment, such as a CB, scanner, stereo, or cellular phone.

[OM 19] DRIVING WHILE HOLDING THE DISPLAY CAN LEAD TO INCREASED HEAD–DOWN TIME

  • To incorrectly use the current system as a secondary task, the driver holds the unit in his/her lap or rests it on the steering wheel. This forces the driver to look downwards, away from a head–up position. While short glances at the display and a few key presses constitute the short and "not too demanding" task of reading a message, several drivers confessed to typing messages with the unit on their lap while driving, and felt it hindered their driving.

  • Display units should be located (and fixed) near the forward line of sight.

[OM 20] DISPLAYS MOUNTED AT EYE HEIGHT AND ARM'S LENGTH REDUCE HEAD–DOWN TIME WHEN DRIVING

  • Some drivers acknowledged that if the unit were mounted closer to their horizontal line–of–sight, they could operate the equipment with greater ease. One driver had actually modified the support bracket that holds the display unit and reconfigured it to be mounted on the dashboard. In this position, the display unit was held to the right of the steering wheel, at arm's length, facing the driver, with the display window close to eye height. This driver believed he had improved the system by allowing him to easily retrieve and read the text messages while driving. He also admitted typing messages while driving, but felt that this did not result in a deterioration in driving performance.

  • Display units should be located (and fixed) near the forward line of sight.

[OM 21] MANUFACTURERS MAY BE RELUCTANT TO MARKET DEVICES TO BE USED WHILE DRIVING

  • The legal implications of requiring drivers to take their sight away from the road seems to be an obstacle that will have to be addressed by all ATIS in–vehicle display manufacturers. Until such issues are resolved, manufacturers may resort to systems that are only operable when a vehicle is parked. However, some drivers reported that the utility of the OmniTRACS system would be reduced considerably if they were forced to be parked to use the system. While it would still provide the ability to communicate with dispatch without a public phone, it would require them to interrupt their driving and increase the cost to the motor carrier.

  • User acceptance of the ATIS system may be influenced by the ability of the system to be used while the vehicle is in motion.

[OM 22] TRAINING PROGRAMS ARE AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE SYSTEM

  • Guidelines in the development of a training program for OmniTRACS revolved around simplicity, brevity, and ease of understanding. One customer developed its own training program involving 2 hours of classroom instruction to train drivers on the proper use of the MCT. Additional in–vehicle instruction was also integrated into the training. The Driver's Manual was designed to be brief, easy to read, and easy to find necessary information. A Driver's Reference card also was provided that showed drivers how to perform the most essential tasks (i.e., reading and sending messages).

  • Classroom and in–vehicle training, instruction manuals, and reference cards are beneficial component of an ATIS training program.

[OM 23] THE ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE WITH DISPATCH WITHOUT LEAVING THE VEHICLE IS PERCEIVED TO BE THE GREATEST UTILITY

  • Drivers were enthusiastic about the ability to be in constant touch with dispatch, without having to stop and find a phone. Savings in time and frustration were emphasized.

  • A continual communications link between driver and management center should be integrated into ATIS/CVO systems.

[OM 24] PAGERS ALLOW DRIVERS TO BE NOTIFIED OF INCOMING MESSAGES WHEN AWAY FROM TRUCK

  • Carriers have the option of providing pagers for their drivers to further enhance the driver–dispatch communications link. Pagers allowed drivers to leave the vehicle (e.g., to check load) and still be connected to the system. The pagers were activated if dispatch sent a "priority" message (e.g., stop loadingðCgo to another location). Most drivers were pleased to have the paging system, yet some mentioned occasions when dispatchers did not attempt to discriminate between priority and non–priority messages and would page the driver with a low–priority message. This resulted in some drivers ignoring their pagers until it was convenient to return to the vehicle to review the message(s).

  • A continual communications link between driver and management center should be integrated into ATIS/CVO systems.

[OM 25] CUSTOMER–DRIVEN DESIGN APPROACH PROVED TO BE BENEFICIAL

  • Customer–driven systems, such as OmniTRACS, may be constrained by the functions and features the CVO industry will purchase. The greatest need was seen for a communications link between dispatch and fleet vehicles. The secondary needs were efficient fleet management and reducing management costs. While the carrier that purchases the OmniTRACS system has to be persuaded that the system is cost–effective from a management perspective, the ultimate user is the driver. Therefore, carriers also have to be confident that the system is easy to use. This is the main impetus for a user–friendly interface. Future designs of ATIS/CVO systems will have to take into consideration whether the driver is going to purchase the system. If so, an ergonomically sound, user–centered approach can be easily justified in the cost of developing and designing the system.

  • Designers of CVO in–vehicle systems will have to address a number of other factors, besides usability, related to the marketability of the system. While ergonomists contend that a user–centered design would result in a safer, more productive, and easier–to–use system that accounts for the capabilities and limitations of drivers, CVO customers are more likely to evaluate the system by its cost–effectiveness.

[OM 26] HUMAN FACTORS DESIGN GUIDELINES WERE NOT USED

  • There were no human factors members in the OmniTRACS design team and it was uncertain whether human factors guidelines were referenced in the driver or dispatcher interface design. Once the needs of the CVO industry were delineated, the design team relied on available technology and cost/benefit decisions to select the components of the driver interface.

  • Human Factors design guidelines are currently not used in the design of some ATIS/CVO systems.

[OM 27] DESIGN CRITERIA WERE MEDIATED BY MARKET DEMANDS

  • The manufacturer evaluates the success of the system in terms of market penetration, sales, and consumer feedback. If customers report improved productivity and acceptance by drivers and dispatchers, then the user requirements are considered met. Few alterations in the driver interface have been made since the first prototype and few are likely to be incorporated in the future.

  • Assessment techniques such as human factors evaluation or usability testing are not viewed as relevant when no problem is apparent.

[OM 28] DESIGN CRITERIA WERE DEPENDENT ON KNOWN SYSTEM ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS

  • Some guidelines were invoked regarding anticipated environmental abuse in the trucking industry. Factors such as vibration, temperature, humidity, and physical impact have a direct relation to the technology used in developing in–vehicle displays. In the CVO industry, these factors have a wider range of values and require systems that will endure. These system may not have the interface features that would be recommended to enhance usability and optimize performance.

  • Usability factors may not be the highest priority in selecting in–vehicle systems technology.

[OM 29] SYSTEM DESIGN REVOLVED AROUND INSTALLATION REQUIREMENTS

  • Ease of installation was a primary design objective. All three components of the MCT system were designed to be installed in 2 to 4 hours and to be easily configured to different types of truck styles. The holster for the display unit can be mounted on any existing panel, allowing the customer to install the MCT to fit the types of trucks in their fleet.

  • Installation requirements should be kept simple and procedures should support installation across different vehicle types.

 

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FHWA-RD-95-197

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