PhD Studentship available from October 2017

Steering torque feedback to the driver of conventional and automated vehicles 

Steering torque feedback, or steering feel, is an important aspect of a vehicle’s dynamic behaviour. It influences the ability of the driver to control a vehicle accurately and safely, and also affects the driver's subjective assessment of a vehicle's dynamic qualities. Despite the significance of steering feel there is very little theoretical understanding of its role. Consequently this aspect of vehicle development is time consuming and expensive.

Although a trend in vehicle development is towards automation of steering control, most vehicle manufacturers acknowledge that the human driver is likely retain a role in controlling the vehicle for at least part of its operating cycle. The role of steering feel may become even more significant (than in a conventional vehicle) during the transition between automatic control and human control.

The aim of the project is to reduce vehicle development costs and improve vehicle performance and safety by measuring, understanding and modelling a driver's response to steering torque feedback. The project will build upon previous work in the Driver-Vehicle Dynamics group on neuromuscular dynamics, game-theoretical models of driver-vehicle interaction, and sensory perception.

The main hypothesis is that a human driver learns an internal mental model of the steering and vehicle dynamics and that this internal model is used for sensing and controlling the vehicle. Driving simulator experiments will be devised and performed to identify the extent to which the driver learns an accurate internal model of the vehicle and steering dynamics. It is postulated that the driver will have difficulty obtaining an accurate model if the vehicle and steering system dynamics are high-order, nonlinear, or time varying, all of which may be characteristics of a real conventional or automated vehicle.

The outcomes of the project are expected to be: a validated driver model accounting for steering torque feedback; metrics for the quality of steering feel; and guidelines for the design of steering torque feedback in conventional and automated vehicles.

The studentship provides fees and approx £20k annual tax-free maintenance award for 'home' students, including a £6k top-up from the industry sponsor. Please contact David Cole (djc13 at for funding conditions or any other enquiries about the project.

Applicants should have (or expect to obtain by the start date) at least a good 2.1 degree (and preferably a Masters degree) in an Engineering or a related subject.

Applications should be submitted via the University of Cambridge Graduate Admissions web pages, with Dr David Cole identified as the potential supervisor