A Perspective on GVSC Crewstation Development and Addressing Future Ground Combat Vehicle Needs

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) has been developing next generation crew stations over the last several decades. In this research, the problem space that impacts design development and decisions is discussed.

A prototype crewstation developed for the GSVC’s “Crewman’s Associate” initiative features flat panel displays providing indirect vision to the operator, and programmable bezel buttons to interact with multifunctional displays for mission function.

The interaction of soldiers with advanced combat vehicle systems grows more complex with: 1) Advancements and adaptation to emerging technology; 2) Increased sharing and proliferation of data and information; 3) Changing tactics and requirements of where and how these systems are to be used to gain battlefield dominance; 4) The goal to standardize software and hardware components to reduce costs/maintainability and enable more rapid integration into existing and emerging vehicle systems; 5) The unique shock and vibration experienced by ground combat systems; 6) Weight of the vehicle must be considered for transportability, which drives the vehicle size, that in turn impacts the crewstation volume, or the space soldiers occupy to operate the platform; 7) Survivability and safety of the crew is also essential, so it is desirable to bring the crew under armor instead of head out of hatch.

The potential for a smaller crew size to accommodate reduced vehicle weight is a difficult challenge in itself; a reduced vehicle crew must achieve the same level of performance as its predecessor larger crew, which implies existing tasks must be allocated across team members to successfully accomplish the mission. Now add that these tasks must be performed under armor, which requires vision systems be utilized that take 360 degrees of sensor input and present the visuals on a two-dimensional display within a reduced crewstation volume…we begin to appreciate some of the difficulties that drive successful soldier interactions with proposed vehicle systems. Reduced volume, under-hatch operations are only one consideration. When we contemplate the additional complexities identified above, the challenge becomes significant. Let’s look at each identified challenge and its impact.

New technologies bring great opportunity to increase soldier-system performance, but they also bring complications. First this new system or service must be properly integrated into a crewstation to maximize useability and increase task efficiency. Secondly, a soldier must learn how to properly use a new system or service, as well as trust that the technology provides the desired level of capability. An example here would be a new target recognition system that provides the user with a list of battlespace objects that it detects and recognizes. If an object is not what is expected (i.e., a false positive), the soldier must manually validate this object and then correct, which reduces trust in this new technology as well as creating more work for this crewman.

Secondly, there are enormous volumes of data available to be used for decision making. Sources include network communications, sensor data, systems data, and verbal interactions with team members to name a few. Greater information is critical to making better and faster decisions, but only if the data is useful and relevant to the decision maker. With advancements in computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence, there are promising tools that can be applied to sort, prioritize, and automate data delivery, but again the user must trust these tools to provide the information in a timely, accurate and helpful manner.

Thirdly, changing tactics and requirements of where and how these systems are to be used also drive soldier-system design. An example is maneuverability in small villages or towns. Bridges have weight limits and street widths are narrower, so the vehicle must be smaller to successfully operate and maneuvering in various formations is difficult. Also, there is the potential for top attack from multi-storied buildings as well as improvised explosive devices and distinguishing enemy combatants from the civilian population. Contrast this with open and rolling terrain. Also, the future Multi Domain Operations focus will have a significant impact on distribution of forces and concepts for organization. Traditional Army operational concepts must change to address this, which will impact individual combat vehicle designs. Fourthly, vehicle modernization will impact soldier-system design. To aid in reducing cost, shorten upgrade timelines, simplify maintenance, increase modularity and interoperability, and standardize data definitions and interfaces, vehicles of tomorrow with utilize a common infrastructure architecture. This modernization is very helpful in the long run but will require time for both hardware and software suppliers to comply, which currently limits available design options.

Lastly, ground combat vehicles experience unique environmental factors due to traversing severe off-road terrain, weather conditions, and exposure to biohazards to name just a few. Also, vehicle induced aspects such as shock from weapon firing, and vibration from engine and track operations impact how soldiers must interact with crewstation systems and influence design considerations to optimize soldier system performance. Many of the complexities outlined above have been addressed by GVSC in past activities. Many more must still be developed to take advantage of technological advances and meet emerging vehicle requirements.

This work was performed by Terrance Tierney for the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC). For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) below. TSP-02243

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
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A Perspective on GVSC Crewstation Development and Addressing Future Ground Combat Vehicle Needs

(reference TSP-02243) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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