ITS Leeds academic, Dr Gustav Markkula, has been awarded the prestigious EPSRC fellowship to research safe coexistence of humans and self-driving vehicles. The focus of Dr Markkula’s fellowship will be to enhance the development of automated vehicles by investigating and modelling how humans behave and interact in traffic. Using a multidisciplinary approach, with co-investigators from the University of Leeds School of Computing (Dr Matteo Leonetti) and School of Psychology (Dr Jac Billington), Dr Markkula aims to build on existing models of driver and pedestrian behaviour, extending them with methods and knowledge from cognitive neuroscience and machine learning.

Deputy Group Leader of the Human Factors & Safety Group at the University, Dr Markkula explains: “Comprehensive safety testing of self-driving vehicles requires a large amount of computer simulation, to cover the vast range of possible traffic situations that can occur. However, when it comes to complex, interactive situations, we do not yet have good models of human behaviour to put in the simulations.”

Aimsun is one of the two project partners who will provide advisory support as well as first uptake of the models to be developed; the other is Five AI, a UK startup developing an autonomous shared transport service for European cities, starting in London. Dr Markkula also aims to engage with wider circles of stakeholders: “Safe, human-centric development and deployment of automated vehicles will require the successful involvement of a diverse set of industrial actors, as well as regulatory bodies. One important part of the fellowship will be to interact with these stakeholders to help shape the research, and raise awareness of the importance of these issues.“

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Photo by Kaique Rocha

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