Tracks and Wheels is a manufacturer and supplier of underground mining equipment. The main business activity of the company is modifying and designing utility vehicles for use in mines throughout Canada. One such project, named the Commander 5, is a man carrier and utility vehicle. The jeep-like design features rally-car inspired suspension, a high performance Mercedes engine, and heavy duty Dana axles and transmission. In order to simplify the dashboard design Tracks and Wheels used an 8-inch interactive LCD display, as well as a fully customizable Programmable Logic Controller as the brain of the machine. This technology is new in the mining industry and will give the Commander 5 an edge over its competitors.
An interactive display can have many benefits; however, if not designed properly it will cause user frustration and will reduce value of the product. Similarly, the computing system controls the engine, brakes, transmission, lighting, and other critical machine functions, this system must function flawlessly in the harsh mine environment and must have the proper logic and software design to accomplish this goal. The goal of this design project was to ensure that the user interface display was properly designed to facilitate seamless user interaction, as well as to write qualify software which would ensure proper operation of the machine throughout its working cycle.
The final solution to the interface design was a main screen with a series of menus to access niche functions. The main screen displayed all relevant operator data for use while the machine was in motion. Data such as transmission and engine temperatures, oil pressure, brake system status, engine RPM, ground speed, and machine hours are displayed in a style that is easy to read and comprehend. Navigating throughout the screens was accomplished through a combination of spatial scrolling and menus, such that advanced users could find information quickly, whereas beginners could use the menus to browse available options.
A key feature of the electronic interface was the ability to display all sensor data onto the screen, this will help mechanics to debug issues in vehicle sub-systems when problems arise. A series of screens were created to display all information in functional groups. Large text and color coding was used on every diagnostics screen to aid in user understanding.
The second primary task of this project was the computing system. Documents defining desired functionality of the system were provided by senior engineers. The functional descriptions were then written in code, uploaded to the vehicle, and tested. Functions included emergency brake logic, transmission shifting logic, lights and horn functionality, and starter system logic. These functions are critical to the successful operation of the machine, and as such were rigorously tested. Another important function of the logic controller was detecting errors and sending data to the human interface, sensor data was detected in the controller and sent over a CAN connection to the HMI device, where it was logged to a file for subsequent analysis.
The Commander 5 is now a flagship vehicle in the Tracks and Wheels product line, for more details checkout the Tracks and Wheels website at tracksandwheels.com.