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Sharing Responsibility - Automation of Transport Systems

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Aylett
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Sponsorship will be provided by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) www.rssb.co.uk on behalf of the UK Rail Industry. RSSB is a not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to help its members to continuously improve the level of safety in the rail industry, to drive out unnecessary cost and to improve business performance.

The project has been structured as a result of brainstorming across the rail sector by members including Thales, Interfleet, Network Rail and TRL, and is based around the concept of mixed autonomy. It would appeal to a candidate with interests and expertise in cooperative and mixed-initiative multi-agent systems who would like to apply theoretically-grounded ideas in a real-world context.

ERTMS (the European Railway Traffic Management System) and ATO (Automatic Train Operation) are changing the task of driving a train. This is occurring at a time when automation of transport systems (e.g. automated passenger pods at Heathrow airport, the Google Car, automated mining trucks etc.) is becoming increasingly common through the convergence of low cost, high performance sensors, communications and computing systems and the development of advanced code libraries for extracting information from sensor data. With these factors in mind, it can be expected that the way a train driver operates will be influenced by these developments in order to achieve safer, more efficient and more frequent train services.

The research will investigate:

How an increase in intelligent automation of transport systems may impact the task of driving a train
What styles of cooperation between a driver and automated systems can handle new risks as a result, with a particular focus on systems failures, driver boredom, and the support of driver situation awareness and engagement
What systems and interfaces are needed to deal with these issues: e.g. driver monitoring, performance monitoring


Applicants should have, or expect to obtain one of the following qualifications:

BSc/MSc Computer Science 1st/70% average or above.

Other engineering, science or mathematical backgrounds studied to a suitably qualified level may also be considered. Strong computer programming and software engineering skills are essential and multi-agent/robotics experience is desirable.

Funding Notes

This is a fully funded 4-year Home/EU RAS CDT Scholarship covering Home/EU fees (£4121/annum for 2016/17) and stipend (£14,296 for 2016/17). International students may apply but would have to provide top-up fees to cover the balance of the total overseas fees rate for the academic year (£17,220/annum for 2016/2017).

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