Technical Reports

Supporting Railroad Roadway Worker Communications with a Wireless Handheld Computer: Volume II - Impact on Dispatcher Performance

  • 01
  • Oct
  • 2004
AUTHOR: Timothée Masquelier, Thomas Sheridan, and Jordan Multer
OFFICE: RPD
REPORT NUMBER: DOT/FRA/ORD-04/13.ii
KEYWORDS: cognitive task analysis, data link communications, decision-making, intelligent railroad systems,
ABSTRACT: This report is the second in a series documenting the development and evaluation of a software application to facilitate communications for railroad roadway workers. The roadway worker can perform two types of communication related tasks with the application: request information about train status and territory without assistance from the dispatcher and request track authority. Using a global positioning system (GPS) receiver, the application can also show the location of the device. The study’s goal was to understand the safety implications of digital wireless communications and positioning technologies on roadway worker safety and performance. The current prototype operated on a cell phone integrated with a personal digital assistant (PDA). It was connected to a GPS receiver and exchanged messages with the dispatcher using wireless Internet access. Roadway workers and dispatchers participated in focus groups to acquire information about the tasks they perform and to identify usability concerns. An experiment was conducted to evaluate the current prototype’s impact on the dispatcher. Overall, interactions between dispatchers and roadway workers using digital communications were slower but more accurate than the same interactions over the radio. Dispatcher valued the tracking display based on GPS information, although it increased workload.

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