PhD Studentship: Using Biometrics to Better Understand User Engagement with Autonomous Vehicles

University of Warwick - WMG

Funding: 3 years for UK/EU nationals

Project Supervisors: Dr Stewart Birrell, and Professor Paul Jennings

Start Date: 1st October 2017, or as soon as available.

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (or CAV) are already available to consumers in various forms (e.g. active lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control), and increasingly advanced technologies are being tested on our roads today for deployment in the near future. However, these technologies are being driven by a ‘Technology Push’ rather than a ‘Consumer Pull’, meaning that automotive (and software) companies have little understanding of consumer engagement and trust in these technologies.

Therefore, the continuing development of these technologies has evoked questions over:

  • The nature of people’s trust in partial or fully self-driving vehicles
  • The cognitive and behavioural demands upon drivers when working with autonomous vehicles
  • What additional functionality such vehicles could offer when driving autonomously (from infotainment to health monitoring)

About the project

This PhD opportunity is within WMG’s Intelligent Vehicles research group at the University of Warwick, and will focus on understanding how the use of driver biometrics (i.e. physiology or psychophysiology) can be used to measure, track or understand users’ engagement with autonomous vehicles.

This PhD may explore issues such as, but not limited to:

  • Can we use physiological measurements to assess constructs such as trust, workload, situational awareness, task engagement, fatigue / boredom, or emotional states such as excitement or anxiety?
  • Which psychophysiological measures are the most promising, and can we prove them to be reliable and accurate in predicting user engagement?
  • How can we accurately employ these measures in simulated and naturalistic settings?

WMG will offer the successful candidate:

  • Access to extensive laboratory and consumer-grade devices including: Low-cost physiology toolkits (e.g. BITalino); Medical grade physiology tracking (e.g. BIOPAC); Consumer fitness and HR tracking (e.g. Polar HR10 monitor); Emotion detection; Remote eye tracking (three camera SmartEye); Gait analysis motion capture (Vicon) and our newly-purchased fNIRS system.
  • Access to WMG’s world-leading 3xD Simulator for Intelligent Vehicles, a unique driving simulator platform for the evaluation of CAV.
  • The opportunity to work with an existing team of 10 doctorates in differing fields of CAV research, from human factors to communications to virtual validation.

Entry requirements

We are actively seeking an enthusiastic individual to join our team with the following:

  • An undergraduate and/or postgraduate Master’s qualification in the field of Engineering, Psychology, Physiology, Human Factors, Sport Science or Applied Sciences (for example).
  • Working knowledge of data analysis methods, preferably in the context of sensors/devices.
  • Willingness to conduct experiments involving human participants is fundamental.
  • Enthusiasm for evaluation of new technology and understanding user interaction.


The PhD is fully funded for UK/EU students with both tuition fees paid and a tax-free, increased stipend of £14,296 per year for three years.

To apply

This is a COMPETITIVE application process and a formal application must be completed. The information supplied, will then be sent for review to assess your suitability and interviews will be conducted.

As part of the application, please supply your CV, grades and qualifications (achieved and/or expected), and a project plan and/or personal statement on why you think you should be considered for this position.

Informal enquires can be addressed to Dr Stewart Birrell.

Please begin the process by completing our online enquiry form

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