“Braking bad”: The influence of haptic feedback and tram driver experience on emergency braking performance

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - australasia, place - urban, mode - tram/light rail, planning - surveys, planning - safety/accidents, ridership - drivers, ridership - perceptions, operations - traffic


Tram, Haptic feedback, Road safety, Emergency braking, Streetcar


Trams are experiencing a resurgence with worldwide network expansion driven by the need for sustainable and efficient cities. Trams often operate in shared or mixed-traffic environments, which raise safety concerns, particularly in hazardous situations. This paper adopts an international, mixed-methods approach, conducted through two interconnected studies in Melbourne (Australia) and Birmingham (UK). The first study involved qualitative interviews, while the second was an experimental study involving a virtual reality (VR) simulator and haptic master controller (i.e., speed lever). In tram operations, master controllers play a critical role in ensuring a smooth ride, which directly influences passenger safety and comfort. The objective was to understand how a master control system, enhanced with additional haptic feedback, could improve tram driver braking performance and perceptions in safety-critical scenarios. Interview results indicate that the use of the emergency brake is considered the final or ultimate choice by drivers, and their driving experience is a moderating factor in limiting its application. Combined with the experimental results, this paper highlights how implementing haptic feedback within a master controller can reduce the performance disparity between novice and experienced tram drivers.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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