Transportation-related incidents are the leading cause of occupational fatalities for all industries in the U.S., including the agricultural industry, which suffers thousands of crashes involving farm equipment each year. Simulated driving studies offer a safe and cost-effective way to conduct driving research that would not be feasible in the real world. A tractor driving miniSim was developed and then evaluated for realism at the University of Iowa among 99 Midwestern farm equipment operators. It is important for driving simulators to have a high degree of realism for their results to be applicable to non-simulated driving operations. High-fidelity driving simulators facilitate extrapolations made by driving research but should be re-tested for realism when changes are made to the design of the simulator. The simulator used in this study emulated a tractor cab with realistic controls, three high-resolution screens, and high-fidelity sound. After completing a 10-minute drive, farm equipment operators completed a survey and scored four specific domains assessing specific characteristics (i.e., appearance, user interface, control, and sound) of the tractor simulator's realism using a seven-point Likert scale (from 0 = not at all realistic to 6 = completely realistic). An overall realism score and domain scores were calculated. Farm equipment operators were also asked to provide recommendations for improving the tractor miniSim. Overall, farm equipment operators rated the simulator's realism favorably (i.e., >3 on a scale from 0 to 6) for all individual items and domains. The appearance domain received the highest average realism score (mean = 4.58, SD = 1.03), and the sound domain received the lowest average realism score (mean = 3.86, SD = 1.57). We found no significant differences in realism scores across farm equipment operator characteristics. The most frequently suggested improvements were to tighten the steering wheel (27%), make the front tires visible (19%), and that no improvements were needed to improve the simulator realism (18%). This study demonstrates that the new tractor miniSim is a viable approach to studying farm equipment operations and events that can lead to tractor-related crashes. Future studies should incorporate the suggested improvements and seek to validate the simulator as a research and outreach instrument.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was funded by the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center (Grant No. R49 PA-CE001167), Healthier Workforce Center of the Midwest (Grant No. U19 OH008868), Heartland Center for Occupational Health and Safety (Grant No. T42 OH008491) and Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health (Grant No. U54 OH007548).
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- Driving simulator
- Farm equipment operators
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article