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PhD Studentship: EPSRC ICASE Scholarship in Autonomous Systems in collaboration with Thales UK

University of Southampton

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Southampton
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: £20,000 annual tax-free stipend at an enhanced rate
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 14th June 2019
Closes: 31st August 2019

Supervisor:                 Prof Michael Butler
Co-supervisor:           Dr Thai Son Hoang

Project description

Challenge: Recent breakthroughs in decision making, sensing and mechanical design, are paving the way for autonomous systems that can carry out a wide range of tasks of unprecedented complexity, e.g., self-driving cars, autonomous air and maritime vehicles. A key concern is the trustworthiness of the software-based autonomous control mechanisms that replace human control. Validation and Verification (V&V) of safety and security to ensure trustworthy autonomous systems is a significant research and engineering challenge and the lack of effective V&V will be a barrier to future deployment of autonomous systems. This project will undertake research on rigorous V&V for autonomous systems that addresses challenges particular to autonomous control including evolving missions, human supervision and cybersecurity. The approach will be to use mathematical model-based methods to provide a V&V approach that offers strong guarantees of conformance to safety and security requirements.

Objectives: The project will develop methods for capture and analysis of safety and security properties in a context of autonomous missions dependent on cooperative autonomy with human oversight. The methods will enable precise capture of critical safety and cybersecurity requirements as verifiable formal models and exploit appropriate static analysis tools for V&V and enablement of confidence in the conformance of system behaviour. The PhD student work with leading research groups in system assurance and autonomous systems. The student will also collaborate with autonomous systems experts in Thales including visits and an internship at Thales UK and will have access to state-of-the-art facilities.

The Candidate should have a keen interest in the interplay between software design and autonomous vehicles and in their safe and secure operation; have the curiosity to question existing designs and the ambition to uncover new ways of achieving security and safety of autonomous systems.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Prof Michael Butler, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2435 or Dr Thai Son Hoang,, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 7084.

Key facts

Entry requirements: first or upper second-class degree or equivalent in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, or Engineering. 

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 31 August 2019. 

Duration: up to four years (full-time) 

This 4 year iCASE studentship covers UK tuition fees and provides an annual tax-free stipend at an enhanced rate of £20,000.

Applicants must be UK residents with no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have lived here for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. This residence cannot be mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education.

For further guidance on funding, please contact

Assessment: Nine month and 18 month reports, viva voce and thesis examination 

Start date: typically September

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