Dr Frank Chien Hsun Lai

Colleagues will be very sorry to hear of the death of Dr Frank Lai, who was a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Transport Studies (ITS).

Frank first came to the Institute and University in 1996 as a student on Leeds' world-renowned MSc programme in Transport Planning and Engineering. He stayed on at the Institute to undertake doctoral studies in the area of road user behaviour under the supervision of Professor Oliver Carsten. Following the award of his PhD in 1999, Frank was appointed to the academic staff of the Institute. There began an 18-year career at the Institute, which has sadly been cut short after Frank lost a courageous battle against cancer.

Frank's philosophy was to be a 'research-focused individual dedicated to enhancing understanding of transport challenges, improving research techniques, facilitating knowledge transfer and promoting life-long learning'. His research sought to further understanding of road user behaviour, through projects funded by the UK government, the European Commission, and the UK research councils. This work encompassed interests in intelligent transport systems (ITS), traffic management, road accident causation, and future mobility. Frank's projects typically involved the deployment of both quantitative and qualitative research methods, to inform the design of transport infrastructure and/or technology interventions, as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions.

Alongside his research, Frank was a hugely committed and effective teacher, playing a leading role across the Institute's postgraduate and undergraduate portfolio. Frank managed and taught on three Masters modules (Transport Data Collection and Analysis, Traffic Management, and Safety of Road Transport) as well as an undergraduate module (Transport, Mobility and Safety). He also supervised Masters dissertations and PhD theses across a range of fields, including road user behaviour, road engineering, transport planning and policy. Frank's popularity with students was obvious to his academic colleagues - since he always went the extra mile for his students both academically and pastorally.

Last but not least, Frank added particular impetus to ITS's internalisation agenda, by acting as the Institute's International Student Advisor, and playing an instrumental role in establishing substantive links with institutions in Taiwan and China (especially the South West Jiaotong Joint School). Typically two-thirds of ITS's 100-strong annual postgraduate cohort are international, and Frank's passing will, therefore, bring much sadness to our alumni spread across all corners of the world.

The staff of the Institute will remember Frank as a hugely talented and committed colleague, as well as being a lovely person. Frank's legacy will be carried forward into the future as we celebrate his life through the newly-established 'Frank Lai Student Award for Impact or Innovation through a Masters Dissertation', which will be presented for the first time at this year's Graduation celebration.

Frank is survived by his wife Karen and daughter Leanne. A private family funeral was held on Monday 4th December, on which date the University flag was lowered as a mark of respect.

Research Projects

  • The effect of new technologies on speed distributions, funded by EPSRC, 1999-2001.
  • Effectiveness of the National Driver Improvement Scheme (NDIS), funded by Department for Transport, 2001 - 2005.
  • Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA), funded by Department for Transport, 2001 - 2006.
  • Human Machine Interface and the Safety of Traffic in Europe (HASTE), funded by European Commission, 2002 - 2005.
  • Adaptive Integrated Driver-vehicle Interface (AIDE), funded by European Commission, 2004 - 2008.
  • Interaction between speed choice and road environment, funded by Department for Transport, 2006-2008.
  • Effects of Automated Systems on Safety (EASY), funded by EPSRC, 2007-2010.
  • Speed Limit Adherence and its effect on road safety and climate change, funded by  Commission for Integrated Transport, 2007-2008.
  • Field Operational Test Support Action (FESTA), funded by European Commission, 2007-2008.
  • Field Operational Tests Networking and Implementation (FOT-NET), funded by  European Commission, 2008-2010.
  • IT for Error Remediation and Trapping Emergencies (ITERATE), funded by European Commission, 2008-2011.
  • Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) for Lancashire, funded by the Department for Transport, 2009-2011.
  • ecoDriver (Supporting the driver in conserving energy and reducing emissions), funded by European Commission, 2011-2015.
  • Public Health Variable Message Signs, funded by Birmingham Primary Care Trust, 2012-2013.
  • UDRIVE (eUropean naturalistic Driving and Riding for Infrastructure & Vehicle safety and Environment), funded by European Commission, 2012-2017.
  • Scoping study on pedestrian safety, funded by First Group plc. 2014.
  • Evaluation of the National Speed Awareness Course, funded by the Department for Transport, 2015-2017.

Undergraduate modules

  • Transport, Mobility and Safety [TRAN2070]

Masters modules

Masters dissertation supervision

Past topics

  • The impact of roadside advertising upon driver distraction
  • What catches drivers’ attention?
  • Studying vehicle emissions in 20mph zones
  • Reducing speed limit for single carriageway roads: is there sufficient gain in safety?
  • Speed limit compliance and enforcement strategies
  • Speed management in 20mph zone
  • Effectiveness of 20 mph zones on road casualty reduction
  • Study of signalised intersections in the Kingdom of Bahrain
  • Immigrants and road safety campaign
  • What are the causes of increased levels of cycling?
  • Add-on functionality to portable sat nav systems: what do drivers want?
  • Mobile technologies and road safety
  • Young drivers and their involvement in road traffic accidents in Leicestershire
  • Deployment strategy of electric vehicles
  • Speed limit for motorways: a case study of increasing speed limits
  • Effectiveness of Variable Message Signs
  • Elderly's travel pattern and travel time
  • Evaluation of priority pedestrian crossings

Current topics

  • Pedestrian crossings design considerations
  • Vulnerable Road Users and Intelligent Transport Systems
  • Creditability of speed limits
  • Mobile devices and pedestrian road safety 

PhD thesis supervision

Past topics

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the National Driver Improvement Scheme
  • Investigating confidence through assessment and comparison of perceived and actual skills

Current topics

  • The effective use of ITS and other advanced communication technologies in reducing the transport impacts of disasters
  • Policing strategies for road safety improvement
  • Appropriate speeds: impact on road safety and environment
  • Traffic safety and risk perception

Future topic areas

I am interested in supervising the following topic areas.

  • Intelligent Transport Systems and Vulnerable Road Users
  • Future transport provision and mobility
  • Electric vehicles: uptake and long-term impacts
  • Road safety countermeasures for different road user groups
  • Immigrants and road safety
  • Mobile devices and road safety
  • Speed limits and appropriate speeds
  • Novice driver training, including pre-test and post-test training
  • Promoting walking and cycling: health benefits and risks
  • Traffic management techniques 

Vulnerable Road Users and Intelligent Transport Systems


Book Chapters

  • Barnard YF; Carsten O; Lai F (2011) From Theoretical Model to Experimental Data: A Structured Approach to Design Experiments to Seed a Model of Vehicle Operation with New Systems, In: Carlo CP (Ed) Human Modelling in Assisted Transportation, Springer-Verlag New York Inc, pp.109-117.
  • Merat N; Jamson AH; Lai FCH; Carsten OMJ (2010) Automated driving, secondary task performance and situation awareness, In: de Waard D; Axelsson A; Berglund M; Peters B; Weikert C (Ed) Human Factors: A system view of human, technology and organisation, Shaker Publishing B.V., pp.41-53.
  • Lai FCH; Barnard Y (2010) Spotting sheep in Yorkshire: using eye-tracking for studying situation awareness in a driving simulator, In: de Waard D; Axelsson A; Berglund M; Peters B; Weikert C (Ed) Human Factors: A system view of human, technology and organisation, Shaker Publishing B.V., pp.249-261.

Internet Publications


  • Jamson S; Lai FCH; Jamson AH; Horrobin A; Carsten O (2008) Interaction between Speed Choice and Road Environment, .
  • Lai F; Chorlton K; Simpkin R; Fowkes M (2008) Results of Truck Trial, .
  • Carsten OMJ; Fowkes M; Lai F; Chorlton K; Jamson S; Tate FN; Simpkin R (2008) Intelligent speed adaptation: Final report, .
  • Conner MT; Lai FCH (2005) Evaluation of the effectiveness of the National Driver Improvement Scheme, .

Conference Papers