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Research programme launched into trustworthy autonomous systems

28/10/2019

Research programme launched into trustworthy autonomous systems

A major new research programme has been announced by government looking into how the users of future autonomous systems can fully trust them.

The £34 million programme funded through UK Research and Innovation’s Strategic Priorities Fund will research crucial challenges around the adoption and development of autonomous systems, tearing down barriers that can prevent society from trusting and using them.

It will bring together researchers and experts from many different disciplines, as well as the public, so that the needs are understood and these inform the research conducted. This programme will for example develop ways to ensure that autonomous systems do what we expected them to do, that they incorporate ethical and legal considerations, and that they will be better protected against cyber-attacks.

The programme will be delivered for UKRI by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Professor Charlotte Deane, EPSRC Deputy Executive Chair, said: “There is no doubt that autonomous systems have huge potential to be transformative but in order for society to use and benefit from them, we need to be able to trust them. This important investment announced today will address key challenges around their development such as safety, security and reliability so they can be adopted effectively across society and industrial sectors.”

This announcement follows previous Government investment in a Bristol-based project which has already developed a prototype of a robot called CHIRON - designed to support older adults with mobility and other ageing-related impairments. The robot could eventually assist with anything from bringing a tray of food or drink to a patient, to helping those with mobility issues to their feet from their chair. The latest phase of the project in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory is conducting research to ensure that these robots are trustworthy and safe for use.

Praminda Caleb-Solly, Professor of Assistive Robotics, Bristol Robotics Laboratory said:

“Assistive robots can provide essential support for those who need help carrying out everyday tasks - so they can maintain their independence for as long as possible. But making sure we can trust these robots by reducing the risks associated with this technology is essential.

“Unlocking their full potential means they could assist with anything from physiotherapy, to assistance for older people with mobility issues - improving people’s quality of life significantly.”

The Strategic Priorities Fund is being delivered by UKRI to drive an increase in high quality multi- and interdisciplinary research and innovation; ensure that UKRI’s investment links up effectively with government research priorities and opportunities; and ensure the system responds to strategic priorities and opportunities.


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