In this graduation project, we dealt with the question of how operating concepts within a modern tractor can be improved to make work easier for tractor drivers and to focus on their needs.
The basis for the project is the enormous variety of different operating concepts that tractor drivers currently encounter. You will encounter this variety both within the tractor manufacturers and within the implement manufacturers. Unfortunately, the majority of design decisions have so far been made on the basis of technical possibilities. As a result, tractor drivers and their needs have largely fallen by the wayside.
„I’m too stupid to use this.“
„No, we’re not too stupid, the bulldogs are too stupid.“
This leads to greater challenges and difficulties among users when handling the various functions. In addition to the stressful daily routine, learning various concepts leads to an increased workload and contributes to the existing mental burden in this professional group. Finding your way through the functional jungle requires patience and long „trial and error“ paths.
How might we help make everyday work easier for tractor drivers with the help of an intuitive operating system?
The settings that are important for preparing the work process are represented in the driver’s cab by the so-called terminal – in our concept a conventional tablet. This offers more flexibility than outdated built-in screens and already has familiar interaction patterns.
Within this tablet, we are in an application. Its structure is divided into a road mode, field mode and general settings. If an implement is attached, the field mode appears and provides all relevant information and settings. These are curated by the application. This allows tractor drivers to make settings and read information in a targeted manner.
The joystick no longer has the highest priority in our concept. The majority of tasks that are currently still controlled manually can already run autonomously. However, manual control of the functions of the respective attachment is still relevant. We therefore decided to implement an uncomplicated interaction concept in the form of a display-based joystick.
The joystick automatically loads the controllable functions based on the attached implement. The x-axis is used to navigate through the various functions, which are sorted on the joystick display according to the work process. The corresponding functions can be triggered via the y-axis of the joystick.
The status of the currently selected function is shown in the center of our round joystick screen, while the operating directions are displayed at the top and bottom. To prevent operating errors and the resulting damage to the attachment, interdependent functions cannot be called up until the work step has been completed. These are displayed in a disabled state.
We implemented the joystick concept as a functional prototype using Arduino. The various hardware elements were packaged using a 3D printed element and brought into the joystick shape.
To make our concept easier to understand, we decided to connect the joystick to a tractor model. The tractor and seed drill can be controlled using different motors and can simulate the corresponding functions of the joystick.
In addition to the concept, my personal focus in this project was primarily on the realisation of the hardware prototype. I learned a lot about programming and developing Arduino prototypes. As I had never worked on such a complex prototype before, this was a challenge that I consciously set myself in order to expand my skills and grow.
In addition, we have never before practiced such a clear division of tasks as in this project. Handing over the other parts of the project so clearly and still developing a coherent overall concept together was a new experience.