External Interfaces for Autonomous Vehicles in Shared Spaces

External Interfaces for Autonomous Vehicles in Shared Spaces

Eligibility: UK/EU/International graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary plus tuition fees (UK/EU/International)

Duration: Full-time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: 3rd May 2021 4pm GMT

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2021

To find out more about the project please contact Professor Stewart Birrell.

Cotutelle PhD Programme

This studentship is part of the Cotutelle PhD Programme with Deakin University (Australia). Find out more about our global Cotutelle opportunities.

Find out more


This PhD project is part of the Cotutelle arrangement between Coventry University, UK and Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. The project is led by Coventry University.

The successful applicant will spend the 1st year at Coventry University and the following year at Deakin University and then the final 1.5 years at Coventry University

The supervision team will be drawn from the two universities.

About the project

Coventry University is inviting applications from suitably-qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship. This PhD project is part of the Cotutelle arrangement between Coventry University, UK and Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. This is a fully funded doctorate for 3.5 years in duration, with tuition fees covered and bursary / stipend paid. The successful applicant will spend 1 year at Deakin and 2.5 years at Coventry, with a supervision team drawn from the two Universities. This is a unique opportunity to conduct doctorate level research at two leading international Universities. Costs associated with travel between the UK and Australia are covered by the programme.

The research community has demonstrated growing interest in the interaction between autonomous, aka driverless or self-driving, vehicles and vulnerable road users (VRUs) such as pedestrians and cyclists. This usually focuses on technology or engineering solutions to detect pedestrians and their intention to cross. However, design and Human Factors focused alternatives exist which attempt to understand how vehicles should communicate their manoeuvring intention(s) to pedestrians and cyclists via external human machine interfaces (HMI). These interactions are particularly problematic when VRUs have to share the same environments with autonomous vehicles, for example, in semi-pedestrianised areas. Studies have suggested that in the absence of an ability to communicate eye-to-eye or face-to face with a driver, it is important and necessary to communicate the vehicle’s manoeuvring intentions to pedestrians.

This PhD will investigate such external interfaces for autonomous vehicles in shared spaces. The doctoral researcher will be based at the National Transport Design Centre (ntdc) and have use of our world leading VR and Mixed Reality facilities to design and evaluate the user-centred interfaces.


This is a fully-funded studentship, including:

  • Full tuition fees (for up to 4 years)
  • A stipend for up to 3.5 years subject to satisfactory progress
  • A one-time economy return airfare to host institution
  • Conference allowances


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities. 

Entry requirements

Applicants must meet the admission and scholarship criteria for both Coventry University and Deakin University for entry to the Co-tutelle programme 

This includes:

  • Applicants should have graduated within the top 15% of their undergraduate cohort. This might include a high 2:1 in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 70% mark (80% for Australian graduates) in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 70% overall module average (80% for Australian graduates). 
  • A Masters degree in a relevant subject area, with overall mark at minimum Merit level. In addition, the mark for the Masters dissertation (or equivalent) must be a minimum of 80%. Please note that where a candidate has 70-79% and can provide evidence of research experience to meet equivalency to the minimum first-class honours equivalent (80%+) additional evidence can be submitted and may include independently peer-reviewed publications, research-related awards or prizes and/or professional reports. 
  • Language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component). 
  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a prescribed period of study.  

For an overview of the entry requirements of each university please visit the respective page on each university's website:

Please note that it is essential that applicants confirm that they are able to physically locate to both Coventry University (England) and Deakin University (Australia).

How to apply

If interested, who should you apply to?

All of the research projects have been jointly agreed, and a lead institution identified for each project. The lead institution is clearly identified within the details of each of the advertised research projects (this project is led by Coventry University).

Please note that applications must be made to both universities.

What is the application process?

Applications are submitted to both institutions. Applicants must ensure they meet eligibility requirements. Selection involves academic staff from both institutions. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by a panel including academic staff from each institution. Applicants will need to submit copies of certificates to both institutions in line with their respective requirements.

Applications to Coventry University require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project. 

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