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Towards an Autonomous Road Maintenance System (ARMS)

Low Carbon Eco-innovatory

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Dr S Fichera , Dr P Paoletti , Ms Lisa Layzell No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The University of Liverpool (UoL) and Re-botics Ltd are seeking to appoint a suitable experienced and qualified individual to undertake a three year doctoral research programme.

The PhD project aims to develop an autonomous robotic platform for pothole detection and repair, capable of meeting the UK’s roads surface maintenance requirements. The system will allow detection and remediation of already established potholes, but also pre-emptive identification and repair of cracks, which typically evolve into potholes if left untreated.

Pothole numbers and severity are at crisis levels in the UK. Over the last decade, 17.9 million potholes have been filled, at a cost exceeding £1bn. This is a trivial effort compared to the challenge of repairing all of the UK damaged roads, estimated to exceed £10bn and taking over a decade to complete at the current rate. This situation will only worsen; the pothole occurrence rates are increasing across the UK due to ageing roads, the increasing number of road users, and enhanced vulnerability under new extreme climate scenarios. In the 2020 budget the UK Government pledged £2.5bn to tackle this pothole crisis. However, the posed solution to continually pump money into an increasingly out of control problem is unsustainable. A step-change in the processes used for road maintenance is urgently needed. The time-consuming, labour intensive, and hence costly, remediation is in part due to outdated and localised repair methods; the poor on-site quality testing means that future repair of the same site is often required. The spiralling cost is a consequence of the slow uptake of automation and the short-sightedness in developing effective preventative technological solutions.

In this project, a prototype robotic platform (ARMS) will be developed to embed autonomous advanced detection and repair systems, and tested for real-world applications. The system will address the expanding need for automated road maintenance, whilst reducing risk to maintenance crews, the cost of repair, and damage remediation timescales. The system will provide a key data management asset, allowing large amounts of accurate road measurements to be recorded and transmitted directly into the relevant database. This will not only allow progressive assurance during projects but also provide key resources for informed decision making for UK road management. The benefits will not only be reaped in cost saving for the UK, but also the time taken from damage appearance to full repair.

The successful application will have a 2:1 honours degree or above (or equivalent) in either mechanical, electronic or aerospace engineering that includes knowledge of mechanical design, control techniques, programming and CAD skills. An interest in robotics and experimental work is preferred.

This PhD is one of 18 industry-led collaborative R&D projects from the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory. The aim of the project is for you to work toward a PhD at the University of Liverpool through delivering ‘real – life’ solutions to industry. The Centre brings together the expertise, resources and global contacts of University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moore’s University and Lancaster University to create innovative low carbon goods, processes and services developed through collaborative R&D partnerships between local companies in the Liverpool City Region and local universities.

All LCEI PhD projects have been developed by SMEs contacting the University for assistance in R&D where the company does not have internal expertise, resource or facilities to carry out the research. This will give you a strong advantage in entering a competitive jobs market in both the academic and commercial sectors.

Funding Notes

By joining the centre you will receive a £16,000 tax free stipend per year, with your post-graduate tuition fees paid (at UK/EU rate), International graduates will have to make up the difference between this. The centre is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund. Please visit for more information on the centre.
Application details:
To apply for this opportunity please email [Email Address Removed] quoting UoL-LCEI-251 in the email subject with:
• 2 page CV
• 2 page expression of interest


Re-botics is a University of Liverpool spin-off tech company that has the ambitious goal of bringing robotics and automation to the construction sector. The long term vision of Re-botics sees swarms of completely autonomous vehicles capable of manufacturing, inspecting and maintaining buildings and large infrastructures. In the shorter term, Re-botics is developing a high-tech road maintenance vehicle capable of alleviating the pothole problem. Re-botics is based in the LCR and features strong links with both the University of Liverpool and a Manchester-based venture capitalist firm A2e Ltd.

University of Liverpool School of Engineering is built on a strong research environment, the School offers taught degree programmes at both BEng and MEng levels in aerospace, civil and mechanical engineering and industrial design. From 2005-2008 the School infrastructure underwent a £36 million refurbishment, creating outstanding facilities for teaching and research. The School currently has over 70 academic staff, around 1250 undergraduate students, 100 PGT students and 180 PGR students. The research in the School spans many engineering disciplines and specialises in fields such as: aerodynamics and aeroelasticity, flight dynamics and simulation, experimental and computational fluid dynamics including complex fluids (rheology) and turbulence, experimental mechanics, structural and functional materials, laser and additive manufacturing, biomaterials and biomechanics, risk and uncertainty, structural dynamics, robotics and nuclear engineering. Please visit for more information.

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