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PhD Studentship - Human-Centric AI in Collaboration with Thales UK

University of Southampton

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Southampton
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Full tuition fees, for UK students, and a tax-free stipend of £20,000 per year
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 4th July 2020
Closes: 31st August 2020

Supervisory team: Prof Michael Butler, Prof Gopal Ramchurn, Dr Danesh Tarapore, Dr Thai Son Hoang

Project description

Challenge: Recent breakthroughs in decision making, sensing and mechanical design, are paving the way for autonomous systems (AS) that can carry out a wide range of tasks of unprecedented complexity, e.g., autonomous air and maritime vehicles, self-driving cars. Increasingly, we see teams involving humans and machines working together in partnership rather than in hierarchical command and control regimes. To ensure such teams achieve their objectives in very dynamic and uncertain environments it is important design intelligent algorithms and interaction mechanisms that guarantee humans and machines understand each others’ goals and can react collaboratively to new information and events. Along with flexibility, a key concern is the trustworthiness of the AI mechanisms that augment human decision-making. Verification of trust of in systems is a significant research and engineering challenge and the lack of effective verification will be a barrier to future deployment of AS.

We are seeking candidates for a fully-funded PhD Project to address one these challenges:

Flexible autonomy: The aim is to develop novel AI algorithms and interaction mechanisms to operate and manage large teams of human-agent collectives (HACs): partnerships between humans and software/robotic agents where control can shift between humans and agents and teams may be formed and disband as per the requirement of the mission.  Specifically, we will focus on decision making for large HACs that involve hundreds of agents and relatively fewer humans.

Trustworthy autonomy: The aim is to novel develop methods for capture and analysis of trust requirements, especially safety and security, in the context of autonomous vehicle missions dependent on cooperative HACs. The methods will enable precise capture of critical safety and security requirements as verifiable mathematical models and exploit automated analysis tools for enforcement and verification of trust in autonomous missions.

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:, or Prof Gopal Ramchurn, Email:

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 2020 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Funding: full tuition fees, for UK students, and a tax-free stipend of £20,000 per year 

How To Apply

Applications should be made online, please select the academic session 2020-21 “PhD Computer Science (Full time)” as the programme. Please enter Michael Butler under the proposed supervisor.

Applications should include:

Research Proposal

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online:

For further information please contact:

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