Understandable Autonomous Systems

Our School undertakes research into a wide range of technologies relevant to the development of understandable autonomous systems. Crucially our research is used to ensure that developed autonomous systems are transparent, safe and trustworthy. Our relevant research includes: formal techniques to reason about behaviour; methods to analyse human-robot interaction; and the development of robot vision systems and network protocol infrastructure to support robot-to-robot communication and access to edge-compute resources.

Theme Lead: Professor Alice Miller

Banner for Trustworthy Autonomous Systems

Track record - staff

The theme brings together researchers from across the School who are involved in a wide range of projects relevant to the development of trustworthy autonomous systems. These include: formal techniques to reason about behaviour; methods to analyse human-robot interaction; system intelligence and self-awareness; and the development of robot vision systems and network protocol infrastructure to support robot-to-robot communication and access to edge-compute resources. Examples of activities in this area are outlined below.

  • FATA (Miller, Norman, Calder, Andrei, Gay, Dardha, Enright and McCreesh)
    • Development of a range of models for the simulation and verification of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Funding includes a variety of EPSRC IAA awards.
    • Modelling and reasoning about learning robots, satellites and smart railway systems. 
    • Computational modelling and automated reasoning about the behaviour of complex, interactive, and sensor-driven adaptive and/or autonomous systems.  Funding includes BBSRC and EPSRC projects such as Science of Sensor Systems Software.
    • Programming language approaches, especially type-based, to reason about correct communication in concurrent and distributed software.
      Funding includes the EPSRC ABCD project  the EU BehAPI project.
    • Formal data-driven models and analysis methods for interactive systems and social interactions to interpret human behaviour in the context of pervasive, autonomous technology. 
    • Verifiability of constraint based tools for autonomous decision making and scheduling.
  • IDA (Aragon Camarasa, Siebert, Anagnostopoulos, Adel)
    • Robotic manipulation and grasping, chemical robotics and machine perception.    Funded by Innovate UK and EPSRC.
    • Visual sensing and computer vision architectures based on biological systems for control and learning in hand-eye robotics applied to advanced manufacturing and autonomous systems.
    • Distributed intelligence algorithms for unmanned vehicles in resource-constrained environments. GNFUV project funded by EU/H2020.
    • Interpretability of Machine Learning models - in particular for medical applications and autonomous systems.
  • GIST (Brewster, Foster, Chalmers)
    • User interface design for interaction with autonomous systems, including the design of user interfaces for autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, the effective handover of control between driver and vehicle, and user experience design for passengers of autonomous vehicles.
    • Models of both human and robotic behaviour and the measurement of the performance of said models.
    • Ethical systems design, especially those using the concept of 'human-data interaction design’. This involves legibility, agency and negotiability with regard to how complex data-driven systems, such as autonomous systems operate. 
  • GLASS (Trinder, Cano Reyes, Pezaros, Singer, Michala, Perkins, Storer,Thamsen, Elkhatib, Li)
    • Reliable Scalable Software Systems, many of which use, or reason about, a reliable distributed actor model like Erlang or Scala with Akka. Important application areas are large-scale servers and robots. Supported by a variety of funding including the EU RELEASE project.
    • Providing Machine Learning capabilities to mobile/embedded edge devices (e.g. robots, drones and satellites).  Applications include autonomous navigation, image classification, video detection, speech recognition. Funding includes the EU BONSEYES project. 
    • Measurement-based, closed-loop network and service management mechanisms for adaptive and resilient operation of mission-critical networked systems. Focus is on self-management, self-configuration, self-optimisation, and self-protection properties.
    • Investigation into programming language runtimes with predictable and/or autonomic behaviour (e.g. bounded resource utilization).
    • Data analytics and machine learning on data streams to optimise network  usage, information extraction, privacy, stakeholder access requirements and clearance. Applications include autonomous and unmanned ships and autonomous satellite systems. 
    • Robust and secure network transport protocols for real-time traffic, including audio/visual data; network protocol standardisation; and specification. Scalable edge and in-network computation architectures, funding includes the EPSRC FRµIT project.
    • Development of simulation environments to to model, simulate and explore the
      interaction between complex technical systems, environments and humans.
    • (Self-)adaptive resource management for data-intensive applications, aiming at easy-to-use yet efficient and dependable data processing on distributed computing infrastructures (such as cluster, cloud, and edge environments).
    •  enabling systems to have the self- and context-awareness to compose with each other at runtime. Adhoc reasoning in multi-agent environments. 
    • Human-robot interaction for social and health care and industry. 
    • Privacy protection and cyber security to enhance trust in autonomous systems.


Boudeville, O., Cesarini, F., Chechina, N., Lundin, K., Papaspyrou, N., Sagonas, K., Thompson, S., Trinder, P.W. and Wiger, P. (2012) U.RELEASE: a high-level paradigm for reliable large-scale server software. In: 13th International Symposium on Trends in Functional Programming (TFP'12), St. Andrews, UK, 12-14 Jun 2012,

Fraser, D., Giaquinta, R., Hoffmann, R., Ireland, M., Miller, A. and Norman, G. (2020) Collaborative models for autonomous systems controller synthesis. Formal Aspects of Computing, 32, pp. 157-186. (doi: 10.1007/s00165-020-00508-1)

He, J., Wadler, P. and Trinder, P. (2014) Typecasting Actors: from Akka to TAkka. In: Fifth Annual Scala Workshop (SCALA '14), Uppsala, Sweden, 28-29 Jul 2014, pp. 23-33. ISBN 9781450328685 (doi: 10.1145/2637647.2637651)

Lutac, A., Chechina, N., Aragon-Camarasa, G. and Trinder, P. (2016) Towards Reliable and Scalable Robot Communication. In: Fifteenth ACM SIGPLAN Erlang Workshop, Nara, Japan, 23 Sep 2016, pp. 12-23. ISBN 9781450344319 (doi: 10.1145/2975969.2975971)

Giaquinta, R., Hoffmann, R., Ireland, M. , Miller, A. and Norman, G. (2018) Strategy Synthesis for Autonomous Agents Using PRISM. In: 10th NASA Formal Methods Symposium (NFM 2018), Newport News, VA, USA, 17-19 Apr 2018, pp. 220-236. ISBN 9783319779348 (doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-77935-5_16)

Lu, Y. , Miller, A. A. , Hoffmann, R. and Johnson, C. W. (2016) Towards the automated verification of Weibull distributions for system failure rates. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 9933, pp. 81-96. (doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-45943-1_6)

Beilharz, J., Wiesner, P., Boockmeyer, A., Friedenberger, D., Brokhausen, F., Pirl, L., Behnke, I., Polze, A. and Thamsen, L. (2021) Continuously Testing Distributed IoT Systems: An Overview of the State of the Art. 19th International Conference on Service-Oriented Computing (ICSOC) Workshops, Virtual Event, 22–25 November 2021.

Cano, J. , Molinos, E., Nagarajan, V. and Vijayakumar, S. (2015) Dynamic Process Migration in Heterogeneous ROS-based Environments. In: 2015 International Conference on Advanced Robotics (ICAR), Istanbul, Turkey, 27-31 Jul 2015, ISBN 9781467375092 (doi: 10.1109/ICAR.2015.7251505)

Loukadakis, M., Cano, J. and O’Boyle, M. (2018) Accelerating Deep Neural Networks on Low Power Heterogeneous Architectures. Eleventh International Workshop on Programmability and Architectures for Heterogeneous Multicores (MULTIPROG-2018), Manchester, UK, 24 Jan 2018.

Trinder, P. et al. (2017) Scaling reliably: improving the scalability of the Erlang distributed actor platform. ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems, 39(4), 17. (doi: 10.1145/3107937)

Jones, T., Fairhurst, G. and Perkins, C. (2017) Raising the Datagram API to Support Transport Protocol Evolution. In: 1st International Workshop on the Future of Internet Transport, Stockholm, Sweden, 12-15 June 2017, ISBN 9783901882944 (doi: 10.23919/IFIPNetworking.2017.8264870)

Turner, J., Cano, J. , Radu, V., Crowley, E. J., O’Boyle, M. and Storkey, A. (2018) Characterising Across-Stack Optimisations for Deep Convolutional Neural Networks. In: 2018 IEEE International Symposium on Workload Characterization (IISWC), Raleigh, NC, USA, 30 Sep - 02 Oct 2018, pp. 101-110. ISBN 9781538667804 (doi: 10.1109/IISWC.2018.8573503)

Rovder, S., Cano, J. and O’Boyle, M. (2019) Optimising Convolutional Neural Networks Inference on Low-Powered GPUs. Twelfth International Workshop on Programmability and Architectures for Heterogeneous Multicores (MULTIPROG-2019), Valencia, Spain, 21 Jan 2019. (In Press)

Cano, J. , White, D. R., Bordallo, A., McCreesh, C. , Michala, A. L. , Singer, J. and Nagarajan, V. (2018) Solving the task variant allocation problem in distributed robotics. Autonomous Robots, 42(7), pp. 1477-1495. (doi: 10.1007/s10514-018-9742-5)

Chechina, N., Li, H., Ghaffari, A., Thompson, S. and Trinder, P. (2016) Improving the network scalability of Erlang. Journal of Parallel and Distributed Computing, 90-91, pp. 22-34. (doi: 10.1016/j.jpdc.2016.01.002)

Basford, P. J., Johnston, S. J., Perkins, C. S. , Garnock-Jones, T., Tso, F. P., Pezaros, D. , Mullins, R. D., Yoneki, E., Singer, J. and Cox, S. J. (2020) Performance analysis of single board computer clusters. Future Generation Computer Systems, 102, pp. 278-291. (doi: 10.1016/j.future.2019.07.040)

Cano, J. , Bordallo, A., Nagarajan, V., Ramamoorthy, S. and Vijayakumar, S. (2016) Automatic Configuration of ROS Applications for Near-optimal Performance. In: 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Daejeon, South Korea, 09-14 Oct 2016, pp. 2217-2223. ISBN 9781509037629 (doi: 10.1109/IROS.2016.7759347)

Anagnostopoulos, C. , Hadjiefthymiades, S. and Kolomvatsos, K. (2016) Accurate, dynamic, and distributed localization of phenomena for mobile sensor networks. ACM Transactions on Sensor Networks, 12(2), 9. (doi: 10.1145/2882966)

Beilharz, J., Wiesner, P., Boockmeyer, A., Brokhausen, F., Behnke, I., Schmid, R., Pirl, L. and Thamsen, L. (2021) Towards a Staging Environment for the Internet of Things. In: 2021 IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications Workshops and Other Affiliated Events (PerCom Workshops), 22-26 Mar 2021, pp. 312-315. ISBN 9781665404242 (doi: 10.1109/PerComWorkshops51409.2021.9431087)

Band, E., Herry, H., Perkins, C. and Singer, J. (2018) Peer to Peer Secure Update for Heterogeneous Edge Devices (Extended Abstract). Proceedings of the HiPEAC Workshop on Heterogeneous and Low-Power Data Center Technologies, Manchester, UK, 23 Jan 2018.

Herry, H., Band, E., Perkins, C. and Singer, J. (2018) Peer-to-Peer Secure Updates for Heterogeneous Edge Devices. In: DOMINO Workshop at the IEEE/IFIP Network Operations and Management Symposium (NOMS 2018), Taipei, Taiwan, 23-27 Apr 2018, ISBN 9781538634165 (doi: 10.1109/NOMS.2018.8406323)

Kolomvatsos, K., Anagnostopoulos, C. and Hadjiefthymiades, S. (2016) Distributed localized contextual event reasoning under uncertainty. IEEE Internet of Things Journal, 4(1), pp. 183-191. (doi: 10.1109/JIOT.2016.2638119)

Singer, J. , Perkins, C. and Herry, H. (2018) Does Disaggregrated Compute Require a New Programming Paradigm? 20th Workshop on Compilers for Parallel Computing, Dublin, 16-18 Apr 2018. (Unpublished)

Maier, P., Stewart, R. and Trinder, P.W. (2014) Reliable scalable symbolic computation: the design of SymGridPar2. Computer Languages, Systems and Structures, 40(1), pp. 19-35. (doi: 10.1016/j.cl.2014.03.001)

Cano, J. , White, D. R., Bordallo, A., McCreesh, C., Prosser, P. , Singer, J. and Nagarajan, V. (2016) Task Variant Allocation in Distributed Robotics. In: Robotics Science and Systems 2016, Ann Arbor, MI, USA, 18-22 June 2016, ISBN 9780992374723 (doi: 10.15607/RSS.2016.XII.045)

Becker, S., Schmidt, F., Thamsen, L., Ferrer, A. J. and Kao, O. (2021) LOS: Local-Optimistic Scheduling of Periodic Model Training For Anomaly Detection on Sensor Data Streams in Meshed Edge Networks. In: 2021 IEEE International Conference on Autonomic Computing and Self-Organizing Systems (ACSOS), 27 Sep - 01 Oct 2021, pp. 41-50. ISBN 9781665412612 (doi: 10.1109/ACSOS52086.2021.00033)

Peng, Z., Lu, Y. and Miller, A. (2016) Uncertainty Analysis of Phased Mission Systems with Probabilistic Timed Automata. In: 7th IEEE International Conference on Prognostics and Health Management (PHM 2016), Ottawa, Canada, 20-22 June 2016, ISBN 9781509003822 (doi: 10.1109/ICPHM.2016.7542823)

Peng, Z., Lu, Y. , Miller, A. , Johnson, C. and Zhao, T. (2016) Risk assessment of railway transportation systems using timed fault trees. Quality and Reliability Engineering International, 32(1), pp. 181-194. (doi: 10.1002/qre.1738)

Cano, J. , Yang, Y., Bodin, B., Nagarajan, V. and O’Boyle, M. (2019) Automatic Parameter Tuning of Motion Planning Algorithms. In: 2018 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Madrid, Spain, 01-05 Oct 2018, pp. 8103-8109. ISBN 9781538680940 (doi: 10.1109/IROS.2018.8594183)

MacKenzie, K., Chechina, N. and Trinder, P. (2015) Performance Portability Through Semi-explicit Placement in Distributed Erlang. In: 14th ACM SIGPLAN Erlang Workshop, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, 31 Aug - 2 Sep 2015, pp. 27-38. ISBN 9781450338059 (doi: 10.1145/2804295.2804299)

Trammell, B., Perkins, C. and Kühlewind, M. (2017) Post Sockets: Towards an Evolvable Network Transport Interface. In: 1st International Workshop on the Future of Internet Transport, Stockholm, Sweden, 12-15 June 2017, ISBN 9783901882944 (doi: 10.23919/IFIPNetworking.2017.8264874)

Singer, J. et al. (2018) Next Generation Single Board Clusters. In: IEEE/IFIP Network Operations and Management Symposium (NOMS 2018), Taipei, Taiwan, 23-27 Apr 2018, ISBN 9781538634165 (doi: 10.1109/NOMS.2018.8406120)

Kirwan, R., Miller, A. and Porr, B. (2016) Model checking learning agent systems using Promela with embedded C code and abstraction. Formal Aspects of Computing, 28(6), pp. 1027-1056. (doi: 10.1007/s00165-016-0382-2)

Michala, A.L. , Barltrop, N., Amirafshari, P., Lazakis, I. and Theotokatos, G. (2016) An intelligent system for vessels structural reliability evaluation. In: Bakker, J., Frangopol, D. M. and van Breugel, K. (eds.) Life-Cycle of Engineering Systems: Emphasis on Sustainable Civil Infrastructure: Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium on Life-Cycle Civil Engineering (IALCCE 2016), 16-19 October 2016, Delft, The Netherlands. CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL, pp. 1891-1898. ISBN 9781138028470

Anagnostopoulos, C. and Kolomvatsos, K. (2018) Predictive intelligence to the edge through approximate collaborative context reasoning. Applied Intelligence, 48(4), pp. 966-991. (doi: 10.1007/s10489-017-1032-y)

Anagnostopoulos, C. (2014) Time-optimized contextual information forwarding in mobile sensor networks. Journal of Parallel and Distributed Computing, 74(5), pp. 2317-2332. (doi: 10.1016/j.jpdc.2014.01.008)

Behnke, I., Pirl, L., Thamsen, L., Danicki, R., Polze, A. and Kao, O. (2020) Interrupting Real-Time IoT Tasks: How Bad Can It Be to Connect Your Critical Embedded System to the Internet? In: 2020 IEEE 39th International Performance Computing and Communications Conference (IPCCC), 06-08 Nov 2020, ISBN 9781728198293 (doi: 10.1109/IPCCC50635.2020.9391536)

Stewart, R., Maier, P. and Trinder, P. (2016) Transparent fault tolerance for scalable functional computation. Journal of Functional Programming, 26, e5. (doi: 10.1017/S095679681600006X)

Chechina, N., Moro Hernandez, M. and Trinder, P. (2016) A scalable reliable instant messenger using the SD Erlang libraries. In: Fifteenth ACM SIGPLAN Erlang Workshop, Nara, Japan, 23 Sep 2016, pp. 33-41. ISBN 9781450344319 (doi: 10.1145/2975969.2975973)

Panagidi, K., Anagnostopoulos, C. , Chalvatzaras, A. and Hadjietfthymiades, S. (2020) To transmit or not to transmit: controlling the communications in the mobile IoT domain. ACM Transactions on Internet Technology, 20(3), 22. (doi: 10.1145/3369389)

Valkov, I., Chechina, N. and Trinder, P. (2018) Comparing Languages for Engineering Server Software: Erlang, Go, and Scala with Akka. In: 33rd ACM Symposium on Applied Computing (SAC 2018), Pau, France, 09-13 Apr 2018, pp. 218-225. ISBN 9781450351911 (doi: 10.1145/3167132.3167144)

Stewart, R., Trinder, P.W. and Maier, P. (2013) Reliable scalable symbolic computation: the design of SymGridPar2. In: 28th Symposium On Applied Computing, Coimbra, Portugal, 18-22 Mar 2013,

Lu, Y. , Miller, A. , Johnson, C. , Peng, Z. and Zhao, T. (2015) Availability analysis of satellite positioning systems for aviation using the prism model checker. In: 17th IEEE International Conference on Computational Science and Engineering (CSE 2014), Chengdu, China, 19-21 Dec 2014, pp. 704-713. (doi: 10.1109/CSE.2014.148)

Maier, P., Stewart, R. J. and Trinder, P. (2014) The HdpH DSLs for scalable reliable computation. In: ACM SIGPLAN Haskell Symposium 2014, Gothenburg, Sweden, 4-5 Sep 2014, pp. 65-76. ISBN 9781450330411 (doi: 10.1145/2633357.2633363)

Pagojus, D., Miller, A. , Porr, B. and Valkov, I. (2021) Simulation and Model Checking for Close to Real-time Overtaking Planning. In: Third Workshop on Formal Methods for Autonomous Systems (FMAS2021), 21-22 Oct 2021, pp. 20-37. (doi: 10.4204/EPTCS.348.2)

Michala, A. L. and Vourganas, I. (2017) A Smart Modular Wireless System for Condition Monitoring Data Acquisition. In: 16th International Conference on Computer Applications and Information Technology in the Maritime Industries: COMPIT 2017, Cardiff, UK, 15-17 May 2017, pp. 212-225. ISBN 9783892207016

Chechina, N., MacKenzie, K., Thompson, S., Trinder, P. , Boudeville, O., Fordos, V., Hoch, C., Ghaffari, A. and Moro Hernandez, M. (2017) Evaluating scalable distributed Erlang for scalability and reliability. IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems, 28(8), pp. 2244-2257. (doi: 10.1109/TPDS.2017.2654246)

Radu, V., Kaszyk, K., Wen, Y., Turner, J., Cano, J. , Crowley, E. J., Franke, B., Storkey, A. and O’Boyle, M. (2019) Performance Aware Convolutional Neural Network Channel Pruning for Embedded GPUs. In: 2019 IEEE International Symposium on Workload Characterization (IISWC), Orlando, FL, USA, 03-05 Nov 2019, pp. 24-34. ISBN 9781728140452 (doi: 10.1109/IISWC47752.2019.9042000)

Danicki, R., Haug, M., Behnke, I., Mädje, L. and Thamsen, L. (2021) Detecting and Mitigating Network Packet Overloads on Real-Time Devices in IoT Systems. In: 4th International Workshop on Edge Systems, Analytics and Networking (EdgeSys 2021), Online, United Kingdom, 26 April 2021, pp. 25-30. ISBN 9781450382915 (doi: 10.1145/3434770.3459733)

Hoffmann, R., Ireland, M. , Miller, A. , Norman, G. and Veres, S. (2016) Autonomous agent behaviour modelled in PRISM: a case study. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 9641, pp. 104-110. (doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-32582-8_7)

Asogbon, M. G., Lu, Y., Samuel, O. W., Jing, L., Miller, A. A. , Li, G. and Wong, K. K.L. (2021) GBRAMP: A generalized backtracking regularized adaptive matching pursuit algorithm for signal reconstruction. Computers and Electrical Engineering, 92, 107189. (doi: 10.1016/j.compeleceng.2021.107189)

Johnston, S. J., Basford, P. J., Perkins, C. S. , Herry, H., Tso, F. P., Pezaros, D. , Mullins, R. D., Yoneki, E., Cox, S. J. and Singer, J. (2018) Commodity single board computer clusters and their applications. Future Generation Computer Systems, 89, pp. 201-212. (doi: 10.1016/j.future.2018.06.048)

Lu, Y. , Peng, Z., Miller, A. A. , Zhao, T. and Johnson, C. W. (2015) How reliable is satellite navigation for aviation? Checking availability properties with probabilistic verification. Reliability Engineering and System Safety, 144, pp. 95-116. (doi: 10.1016/j.ress.2015.07.020)

Lazakis, I., Dikis, K., Michala, A. L. and Theotokatos, G. (2016) Advanced ship systems condition monitoring for enhanced inspection, maintenance and decision making in ship operations. Transportation Research Procedia, 14, pp. 1679-1688. (doi: 10.1016/j.trpro.2016.05.133)

Peng, Z., Lu, Y. , Miller, A. , Tingdi, Z. and Johnson, C. (2016) Formal specification and quantitative analysis of a constellation of navigation satellites. Quality and Reliability Engineering International, 32(2), pp. 345-361. (doi: 10.1002/qre.1754)


Industrial studentships:

  • Assurance and Resilience of Digital Twins in Critical Systems (EPSRC/DSTL Industrial Case Award, 2020 - 2025) - Professor Alice Miller (PI)
  • Computational Intelligence for algorithmic support of teams in data-intensive contexts (QantIC/Thales, 2020 - 2024)  - Professor Rod Murray-Smith (PI)