Heart Rate Variability in Response to Task Automation in Agricultural Semi-Autonomous Vehicles

Behzad Bashiri, Danny D. Mann*
Department of Biosystems Engineering, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 5V6, Canada.

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Bashiri et al.; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Correspondence: * Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Biosystems Engineering, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 5V6, Canada; Tel: (204) 474-7149; Fax: (204) 474-7512; E-mail:


The goal of this study was to assess the sensitivity of the heart rate variability measure to variations in task difficulty and drivers’ mental workload in agricultural semi-autonomous vehicles. 30 young participants with at least one year of tractor driving experience performed steering and implement control and monitoring tasks in a simulator study. Experiments were conducted using the tractor driving simulator (TDS) located in the Agricultural Ergonomics Laboratory at the University of Manitoba. Five levels of automation support from low to high were defined for the implement control and monitoring task. One-half of the participants performed a manual steering task while the other half drove the TDS in automatic steering mode, which only required them to monitor a mapping system and supervise the computer that was performing the steering task. A heart rate monitor was used to record the participants’ heart rate. Time and frequency domain parameters of heart rate were analyzed. Some of the time and frequency domain parameters showed some sensitivity to workload variations, however, inconsistencies were observed in the results. The widely used HRV parameter, 0.1 Hz component of HRV, was not sensitive enough to differentiate mental workload levels when the drivers were involved in the task-loop.

Keywords: Agricultural vehicle, automation design, heart rate variability, mental workload.