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Understanding human control of steering after automated vehicle control (TRANSITION)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr R Wilkie
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Project TRANSITION will use sophisticated laboratory-based measures (including advanced vehicle simulators) to examine drivers re-engaging with the vehicle after a period of autonomous vehicle (AV) control.

Whilst there has been widespread coverage of the development of fully automated vehicles, it is unlikely that full-automation will quickly become the norm. Indeed ’driverless’ vehicles are already technologically possible, but there are significant barriers to adoption, and the prevalent view is that the human driver will remain the primary controller of the vehicle for some time. There are a number of reasons for this, including driving in regions where automation is not possible (e.g. poor GPS coverage, inaccurate mapping or poor road demarcation), needing the human to control the vehicle when automatic systems fail, and not least because some drivers will continue to purchase vehicles that allow them to be in control for some periods. In this context, understanding the best way to ensure safe interactions between human and AVs remains a high priority.

Project TRANSITION will determine the capability of drivers regaining steering control under conditions that simulate various types of visual and cognitive load (e.g. driving at night, and/or when looking away at a satellite navigation system). These findings will be used to identify situations where drivers are particularly vulnerable to making steering errors, and to develop the TRANSITION model of AV-Human transitions that will inform improvements to the design and implementation of AV systems. This project is critical for improving AV systems to ensure they safely manage AV-human transitions, and to develop more effective human-machine interfaces between drivers and their vehicles. The PhD student will work alongside the two PDRAs funded by the grant to investigate in detail the perceptual information and behaviours that are crucial to successful transitions. The work arising from the project will be presented at international conferences and submitted to peer reviewed journals.


The successful candidate will join the Perception – Action – Cognition laboratory in the University of Leeds. This group is based in the School of Psychology which belongs to the Faculty of Medicine and Health, but has strong collaborative links with a number of other Schools and Institutes across different faculties, including the Institute for Transport Studies (ITS), Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science and Rehabilitation Medicine. PAClab also has international links with groups in Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Canada and the USA. The candidate will join a cohort of several PhD students and post-docs working on themes around perception-action-cognition including developmental disorders, skilled performance (driving, surgery, dentistry) and healthy ageing (postural control, rehabilitation).


You should hold a strong degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second class honours degree in a relevant area of psychology, neuroscience, engineering and/or computing. The project will involve experimental design, software developments (computer graphics experience desirable), data collection and analysis, and dissemination (writing papers and presenting at conferences. You should not have already been awarded a doctoral degree.

The Faculty minimum requirements for candidates whose first language is not English are:

• British Council IELTS - score of 6.5 overall, with no element less than 6.0
• TOEFL iBT - overall score of 92 with the listening and reading element no less than 21, writing element no less than 22 and the speaking element no less than 23.

How to Apply

To apply for this scholarship applicants should complete a Faculty Scholarship Application form using the link below http://medhealth.leeds.ac.uk/download/3551/fmh_scholarship_application_2017_18 and send this alongside a full academic CV, degree certificates and transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) to the Faculty Graduate School [Email Address Removed]

We also require 2 academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to send these references on your behalf, directly to [Email Address Removed] by no later than Friday 19 May 2017

If you have already applied for other scholarships using the Faculty Scholarship Application form you do not need to complete this form again. Instead you should email [Email Address Removed] to inform us you would like to be considered for this scholarship project.

Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to [Email Address Removed]

Informal enquiries about the nature of the project can be direct to Dr Richard Wilkie ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

This studentship will attract an annual tax-free stipend of £14,553 for up to 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress and will cover the UK/EU tuition fees. This funding is provided by an EPSRC grant.

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