Tractor Stability

Overturn events demonstrated at Penn State Ag. Progress Days Rear overturn while attempting to snatch a tree-trunk Tractor cab on the motion base, with a 360º view of a field Open source software is used to coordinate information between the various computers and hardware systems


Tractor overturn is a leading cause of fatalities and injuries in the agricultural industry. While Roll Over Protection Structures (ROPS) reduce the risk of injury and death once an overturn event occurs, this project is focused on preventing these accidents from happening.Penn State has worked on the development of a measurement system that can detect tractor orientation using cheap, easy to install sensors.The information obtained from them can be used in two ways:

  • Side overturn/rollover: alert the operator of dangerous driving conditions
  • Rear overturn: actively intervene the tractor driveline, cutting off power.

This work will determine what is the best way for the sensor system to interact with the operator, in order to promote safe and reliable operation of the tractor.

Research Questions

  1. Evaluate the effectiveness of operators' natural tractor stability alerting systems.
  2. Evaluate tractor operator visual scan patterns to determine the optimal location for the stability display system (tractor-operator interface).
  3. Develop and evaluate detectable display systems (tractor-operator interface) to safely and efficiently convey tractor stability information under simulated operating conditions.
  4. Design and build a cost effective microprocessor based device for commercial tractors to prevent rear overturn by mechanically intervening with tractor operation.

Tractor Driving Simulator

The simulator is currently under development in order to test some of the human factor aspects of implementing a Tractor Stability System. The software is all opensource.


Motion Base: MOOG robot for motion simulators. Pay load of 2000 lbs. Generates accelerations up to 0.5 g.

Tractor Cab: John Deere 7230 tractor cab. Instrumented at Penn State to interact with our computing system.

Screen: 8 ft tall, 360 field of view. Designed and built at Penn State, it uses 12 HD projectors to generate the visuals of the virtual world.

Computing: 9 computers are used to simulate the physics of the virtual world, interact with the hardware, generate the HD images and collect data.

Open source software

Robot Operating System (ROS): allows us to communicate hardware and sensor information with the virtual world, as well as multiple computers.

Gazebo: contains a physics engine and an image renderer. It allows us to run simulations of various tractor driving scenarios, and exchange information through ROS.