[SystemSafety] Partnership opportunity

john downer johndowner2 at gmail.com
Tue May 19 16:52:34 CEST 2020

Dear all,

I was hoping I might tap into the community here for a bit of help.

A group of us at the University of Bristol — engineers and social scientists — are putting together a funding bid to look at the future of autonomous systems (or, more specifically, issues pertaining to their functionality). 

As one part of that bid we’re proposing to explore how a system’s functionality interacts with its regulatory and verification demands. The idea, in brief, is to examine how the challenges of verifying and regulating autonomous systems will vary on three axes: 

a) the purpose of the system (e.g. whether it is safety-crucial);
b) The design of the system (e.g. conventional programming vs machine learning); 
c) the system’s operating environment (e.g. public airspace vs factory setting).

There’s more to it than this, of course, and we’re still figuring out the details. But the goal is to think through some upstream, high-level questions in order to produce guidance and insight that might eventually feed into downstream regulatory legislation.

The reason I write is that it would be great, as part of this bid, if we could ‘partner‘ with a regulatory agency, or a private company interested in these kinds of questions. (The bid funder, EPSRC, likes that sort of thing.) I’m thinking something like the CAA / FAA / EASA or their loose equivalents in other domains (medical / automotive).

So if anyone here works for a regulator (or other entity) — UK or international — and would like their organization to be involved, then could you let me know. Or if you know someone not on the list who I might reach out to individually, that would be great too. 

It wouldn’t have to be a big commitment. If nothing else, we could use some bodies to be on an advisory board / steering-committee type thing.

I’m happy to send a more detailed outline to anyone who is interested. It is quite a tight turnaround though, (indirectly because of COVID).

Thanks in advance. I hope everybody is keeping safe in these weird times.

Best wishes,


John Downer
Global Insecurities Centre.
School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS).
University of Bristol (UK)

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