The effect of steering-system linearity, simulator motion, and truck driving experience on steering of an articulated tractor-semitrailer combination

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Abstract

Steering systems of trucks consist of many linkages, which introduce nonlinearities that may negatively affect steering performance. Nowadays, it is possible to equip steering systems with actuators that provide artificial steering characteristics. However, before new steering systems are deployed in real vehicles, evaluation in a safe and controlled simulator environment is recommended. A much-debated question is whether experiments need to be performed in a motion-base simulator or whether a fixed-base simulator suffices. Furthermore, it is unknown whether simulator-based tests can be validly conducted with a convenience sample of university participants who have not driven a truck before. We investigated the effect of steering characteristic (i.e., nonlinear vs. linear) on drivers’ subjective opinions about the ride and the steering system, and on their objective driving performance in an articulated tractor-semitrailer combination. Thirty-two participants (12 truck drivers and 20 university drivers) each completed eight 5.5-min drives in which the simulator's motion system was either turned on or off and the steering model either resembled a linear (i.e., artificial) or nonlinear (i.e., realistic) system. Per drive, participants performed a lane-keeping task, merged onto the highway, and completed four overtaking manoeuvers. Results showed that the linear steering system yielded less subjective and objective steering effort, and better lane-keeping performance, than the nonlinear system. Consistent with prior research, participants drove a wider path through curves when motion was on compared to when motion was off. Truck drivers exhibited higher steering activity than university drivers, but there were no significant differences between the two groups in lane keeping performance and steering effort. We conclude that for future truck steering systems, a linear system may be valuable for improving performance. Furthermore, the results suggest that on-centre evaluations of steering systems do not require a motion base, and should not be performed using a convenience sample of university students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-28
JournalApplied Ergonomics: human factors in technology and society
Volume71
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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