Researchers Develop Emergency App for Tractor Rollovers

The app uses sensors and GPS capability built into smartphones that can detect rollovers. It sends an automatic emergency e-mail and phone message with the coordinates of the accident location to family or emergency responders.

University of Missouri researchers have developed a smartphone app that uses GPS systems to locate farmers who have rolled their tractors. The Columbia, Mo. school's News Bureau reported the app could prevent fatalities in these accidents, which often occur far from farmers' homes or roads. Tractor rollovers are the leading cause of death for farmers, killing about 250 per year, according to the bureau's news release, which cites NIOSH as the source for that number.

The VRPETERS (Vehicle Rollover Prevention Education Training Emergency Reporting System) app uses sensors and GPS capability built into smartphones. When the app detects a rollover, it sends an automatic emergency e-mail and phone message with the coordinates of the accident location to family or emergency responders.

"The tractor is the main power source for field operations, and tractor rollover accidents have been killing people since the beginning of their use in agricultural production," Bulent Koc, assistant professor of agricultural systems management at MU and developer of the app, said in the release. "More and more farmers are using their smartphones to monitor weather or calculate production inputs while operating machinery. Since they already have their phones with them, installing VRPETERS could help save lives."

Koc and research assistant Bo Liu worked to minimize false alarms on the app by designing a device that is attached to the tractor. It helps to calculate the stability of the tractor and will warn the operator when the tractor approaches its rollover point. "Many farmers think they can jump out of their tractors in the event of a rollover, but this isn't the case usually," Koc said. "Side rollovers can occur in just three-quarters of a second, and most people need a second or more to react to an event. So VRPETERS can benefit farmers when a rollover occurs because they often can't reach their phones to make an emergency call."

He said VRPETERS can used on construction vehicles, trucks, snowmobiles, military vehicles, riding lawnmowers, and all-terrain vehicles.

They tested it with a remote-controlled model tractor and plan to test it on a standard tractor before looking for an industry partner to market the app, according to the release.

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