PhD scholarship: Assess city-wide socio-spatial and environmental impacts of autonomous vehicles University of Manchester, UK


Developing an integrated modelling framework to assess city-wide socio-spatial and environmental impacts of autonomous vehicles.

 Autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars are increasingly becoming part of the portfolio of advanced technologies that will shape transport and mobility and transform urban built environments. Like transport innovations in the past, this new form of transportation will not only change the way we travel and interact in cities, but it will also re-shape existing built environments and the supporting infrastructure, and dictate how we design and build new towns and cities. Autonomous vehicles will also have implications for transport-related energy consumption, land use (e.g. road networks and parking), pollution, climate change, air quality and overall public health outcomes in cities of tomorrow. It is therefore critical to examine these socio-spatial and environmental impacts of autonomous vehicles. In doing so, an approach that transcends siloed thinking by embracing an integrated and complex systems perspective is particularly relevant.

 The objective of this PhD research, is to develop and apply an integrated visioning and decision support framework to understand the city-wide socio-spatial and environmental impacts of the diffusions of autonomous vehicles. The successful PhD candidate will be expected to integrate insights from systems dynamics theory and urban transport governance to address the following research questions: 

  1. What scenarios of adoption, diffusion and modes of employment of autonomous vehicles are possible and under what conditions?
  2. What will the socio-spatial and environmental impacts be of the adoption and diffusion scenarios of autonomous vehicles for the Manchester and Melbourne city-regions?
  3. What are the implications of the scenarios of impact for urban transport and mobility governance?

Manchester and Melbourne city-regions will be used as case study areas for this research. Relevant empirical work and model development and applications will be undertaken with these contexts under a joint supervision arrangement involving academics at The University of Manchester and the University of Melbourne.

 Principal investigator at Manchester: Prof Richard Kingston

Principal investigator at Melbourne: Dr Crystal Legacy

For more details, email (Lead supervisor)

How to apply

To be eligible for the programme, applicants should be from the UK/EU and must meet the entry requirements of both The University of Manchester and The University of Melbourne to be accepted.

 Deadline for formal applications is 31 January 2020.

 Interviews will be held week commencing 16 March 2020.


The University of Manchester has ten studentships available and is now offering candidates the opportunity to apply to one of the following projects to start in September 2020.

 You will spend at least 12 months at each institution and will receive a dual PhD at the end of the 3.5 year programme.

 Funding for the programme will include tuition fees, an annual stipend at the minimum Research Councils UK rate (around £15,000 for 2019/20), a research training grant and student travel to Melbourne.

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