back to article Don’t fight automation software for control, just turn it off. FAST

On September 8th, 2015, a pilot left Point Cook Airfield in the Australian State of Victoria for a solo navigational training flight. She didn’t make it back: the plane “impacted rising terrain” about two-thirds of the way into the journey and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau report on the accident, published today, …

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  1. Alan Bourke

    Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

    I'll still be driving myself thanks.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

      I'll still be walking. And watching my back.

      1. Noonoot

        Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

        And I'll just stay at home thanks and play at the Good Life

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

      Indeed. Why would I trust a computer programmed by somebody who obviously doesn't understand the concept of driving an automobile for oneself, and all that entails?

    3. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      I'll still be driving myself thanks.

      Alan - you might not be allowed to. I've been to a couple lectures recently on autonomous vehicles and the point came up time and again, in both technical and psychological contexts, that the benefits of autonomous vehicles are best realized when all the vehicles on the road are autonomous and cooperating. There were discussions/speculation about road space for non-A vehicles being reduced or restricted.

      I'm firmly in the "... drag the keys out of my cold, dead, driving-gloves-with-little-holes-clad hands " camp, but when the only route from A-B for old gits like me is on B-roads with 20mph limits then there might not be much of an alternative

      1. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: I'll still be driving myself thanks.

        If we work on a couple of (big) assumptions, your self-drive car may be very expensive, and for most people could become a luxury. Assume a basic car costs about the same - Most of them will almost certainly be electric with a realistic range of at least 200 miles and an average journey distance of <20 miles, and very much more reliable and cheaper to run, except for the battery which will be replaceable. The service life of the vehicle may be much longer. If we assume that most vehicles are currently used for at most 10% of the time, and they spend most of their time parked somewhere (at home or work), so we could consider that 5 people can use the vehicle, which will come to them, and they don't have to park it; the economics of car ownership change dramatically. Insurance is much cheaper, fuel costs are lower, you don't need to park, and you don't need a garage at home. Cities will need fewer roads and almost no parking areas. If we also assume that more work will be done remotely, the need to travel to and from work will also be reduced. Would you pay more than £5,000 a year for a car when sharing an autonomous vehicle could cost less than £1,000?

        1. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

          Re: I'll still be driving myself thanks.

          Unfortunately some of us need to visit several sites a day with a boot full of spares and tools to fix 'stuff'.

          I'm all for having it drive me around but doubt it could find half of the sites that I visit let alone navigate what could be a building site / underground car park / security checkpoint... I don't fancy getting shot for not stopping in time or not turning lights off etc

          At least it could drive me home from the pub :D or will that not be allowed ?

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: I'll still be driving myself thanks.

          "Would you pay more than £5,000 a year for a car when sharing an autonomous vehicle could cost less than £1,000?"

          Would you spend more than $CURRENCY5,000/yr on a private television/computer room when a shared television/computer room could cost less than $CURRENCY1,000/yr?

          Would you share a bath/toilet with several other families to save a couple grand per year? How about a kitchen? Lots of economy of scale sharing kitchens! Have you SEEN the price of a good steam-injected bread oven lately?

          1. Tim99 Silver badge

            Re: I'll still be driving myself thanks.

            @jake

            My £5,000 to £1,000 was a poor illustrative example. If the autonomous car does happen, it will probably be made in China by someone you have not heard of, and the cost is of a "normal" vehicle is possibly more likely to be >£10,000 p.a.

            I remember the start of a previous major disruption, the mobile phone - Initially only very few people had them, I was working in technology and bought my first one ~25 years ago, now almost everybody has them - The are often rented on a plan at perhaps £300 -£1,000 a year and, whether we like it or not, have radically changed society. The autonomous car (if it happens!) will cause a bigger change.

            Your TV room example is poor, initially they were in a shared room (with your family) and many people did rent TVs; now they are so cheap that most of us have more than one, and the young might use their smart phone anyway. The cost of a private bathroom/toilet (which for most of us is shared within the household) is much less. The shared kitchen is becoming a reality for the urban young because they are starting to use their mobile phones to order meals from "dark kitchens" and many do not cook for themselves (I don't count a microwavable meal as cooking) - Another, perhaps, unforeseen product of the disruption caused by mobile phones. I know several young urban dwellers who don't have a car, and use Uber, again another disruption caused by the phone...

            I did not say I liked the idea of the autonomous car, but if we survive the next 20 years (I won't be around then), it is inevitable - Moores Law generally applies to almost all technology.

        3. kiwimuso
          Unhappy

          Re: I'll still be driving myself thanks.

          @Tim99

          I love your optimism. Tradespeople and the like who work from their vehicles, and carry loads of tools, perhaps not so much.

      2. EBG

        Re: I'll still be driving myself thanks.

        Agree, HG,

        I've been to a number these talks over the past few years. There is an unholy alliance of as-a-Service crony capitalists and we-know-best-we'll-tell-you-what-to-do public planners who have all the power to force this through.

    4. SonofRojBlake

      Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

      "I'll still be driving myself thanks."

      There will come a day when (say) 50% of the cars on the road are self-driving, and 50% are driven by drunk, tired, angry or otherwise inattentive-sometimes humans. And that year, it will be pointed out that although 50% of the cars on the road are human driven, those 50% are responsible for 99.9% of the deaths. And at that point the argument for making driving your own car on the public road illegal will become unanswerable. You'll still be able to do a track day or drive round the farm or the grounds of your stately home, but on public roads driving your own car will rapidly become viewed as violently antisocial insanity. I've been saying for a few years now - by the time my (so far unborn) kids are old enough to learn to drive, they won't need to bother, and by the time THEIR kids are old enough, it'll be against the law.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

        SonofRojBlake,

        We shall see. First, the self-driving cars have to be reliable enough to get approved. Given the story is that Uber's could only manage an average of 13 miles autonomous driving, before requiring human intervention, that's got a while to go.

        OK, Google seem to do much better. But then their car is using lots of very expensive lidar and radar sensors. So the next hurdle to achieve is affordability. They can get away with being more expensive, and leased, seeing as they can wander off and work for other people while we're not using them. Some sort of cross between taxi and car share seems viable. But that's probably still a way off.

        I'm not sure I buy the self-driving car hype quite yet. Like a lot of current news about AI and Big Data - there's a lot of truth, a bit of theory and quite a lot of wishful thinking and marketing bullshit. Computers won't replace all the lawyers, accountants and office workers in ten years time and self-driving cars won't have taken over by then either.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

          Some sort of cross between taxi and car share seems viable

          Which sounds really, really unattractive, based on my experience of hire cars, hire car companies, taxis, and second hand cars.

          Not to mention the fact that I want to treat the interior of my car as personal living space, so other users may have similar misgivings.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

            Ledswinger,

            I suspect you're right. Which makes autonomous cars even further away. They'll start off very expensive, and possibly hard to insure. But if you own a fleet of thousands, then you can self-insure.

            But this will give an inferior service to ownership, at least in some ways, and so will have to be cheaper. Which means utilisation will have to be high, in order to cover costs. Or it'll have to be a loss leader to attract customers, and hope to make profits later, once volume brings the price down.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

              "Which means utilisation will have to be high, in order to cover costs."

              Which in turn means there'll not be enough to go round when everyone wants one for commuting.

              1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

                Doctor Syntax,

                That's easy. They'll charge more for peak travel. The school run, and run to the office. Then you'll be able to hire them cheaper during the day - which may well mean that current 2 car families can drop down to a single car and a monthly hire fee or something. Also maintenance can be done during working hours - leaving more of your fleet available for peak travel.

                Some people will happily pay more for their own car.

                As for the dirty issue, why not a robot vacuum cleaner for a robot car?

                The car companies are looking at this as a way to keep making money if automous cars do come off, and (another big if) if that then leads to more people car-sharing. Because if both happen, they'll sell many fewer cars, and lose some economies of scale.

                But it's both a big social and a big technological change. And those often take longer.

            2. This post has been deleted by its author

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

              "But this will give an inferior service to ownership, at least in some ways, and so will have to be cheaper. Which means utilisation will have to be high, in order to cover costs"

              Which is trivial when the cost of a 20 km taxi ride is on the order of $40, and a 4 km transit ride is a bit over $3.

              The first, and in many ways the best fitting, use case will be replacing taxicabs, followed by replacing buses and streetcars. After that will come supplementing inter-city transit for low volume or off hour service.

              All of these involve high use rates (good for amortizing fixed expenses) and benefit from removing the major operating cost (the driver) while avoiding limitations such as driver hour regulations.

              And a door to door replacement for transit will benefit lots of people who may not be able to use regular transit or afford lots of money to support state imposed taxi monopolies.

          2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

            Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

            "Some sort of cross between taxi and car share seems viable"

            Johnnycab!

          3. Paul Cooper

            Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

            Very much +1. I can barely remember the time before I could drive - it's nearly 50 years since I passed my test - but my wife learnt much later in life, and she tells me that one of the things that she felt very strongly on passing her test was that if everything went pear-shaped, she could live in her car if necessary. Cars aren't just transport, they tend to become very much part of our personal space.

        2. Keven E

          Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

          "Computers won't replace all the lawyers, accountants and office workers in ten years time and self-driving cars won't have taken over by then either."

          A really *exciting courtroom scene impending is one self-driving car co suing another self-driving car co for damages related to the "I had more active, on-board sensors" defense.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

          "Some sort of cross between taxi and car share seems viable."

          What do you want out of a car? A reasonably clean vehicle available when you want it? With your own car the degree of cleanliness is what you decide is what's worth putting in the effort and availability is assured by not competing with someone else for the vehicle. Can you guarantee either with the taxi/car share model, especially if you want the car to go to work in at the same time as most other people?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

        I'm sure that manually driven vehicles will eventually be legislated off the road too. I'm just waiting for the right person to realise this and add self driving capabilities to a vintage steam roller or traction engine...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

          Legislating in favour of limited self driving cars and against other road users means that roads become, in effect, railways. No bikes, no motorbikes, no horses, no pedestrians, no police cars, no ambulances, no fire engines, no delivery vans, etc. And they'd likely require fences to keep wildlife off the roads.

          Not very viable, politically speaking.

          Of the few people I knew working on self driving car tech, not one of them has the first idea as to how a Level 5 car could be done. Even our unmanned trains rely on a manned control centre - not a scalable solution.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

            roads become, in effect, railways.

            Already heading that way.

            As soon as the policy makers realise how bloody hard fully autonomous vehicles are, they'll revert to a combination of the technology above, tied in with a version of the technology used for guided busways. Find me a transport bureaucrat, and I'll find you somebody who pleasures themselves over stuff like this.

          2. jake Silver badge

            Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

            "Not very viable, politically speaking."

            To say nothing about the fact that there are, by some estimates, some 50,000,000 vehicles on US roads that are over 40 years old. These aren't old junkers, these are carefully maintained family heirlooms. They are driven daily, both for utility and for fun. Outlawing all these vehicles would alienate a LOT of voters.

            Manually driven over-the-road vehicles will be with us for at least another century, and very probably much longer. I suspect that any politician who tries to change this will be tarred & feathered and run out of town on the rail.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

          "add self driving capabilities to a vintage steam roller or traction engine..."

          I thought about adding radio controls to my 1915 Case (throttle/brake, forward/reverse and steering). But then I realized I'd have to stay at her controls anyway, in order to operate valves, monitor the fire, and all kinds of other little bits & bobs that go along with driving such a contraption. To say nothing of the fact that it would add some seriously ugly parts to a perfectly beautiful machine ... Needless to say, I shelved the idea before turning a single nut.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

        "And that year, it will be pointed out that although 50% of the cars on the road are human driven, those 50% are responsible for 99.9% of the deaths."

        That makes an assumption as to the relative driving abilities of self-driving vehicles vs tired and drunk humans. That remains to be established.

      4. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

        I've been saying for a few years now - by the time my (so far unborn) kids are old enough to learn to drive, they won't need to bother, and by the time THEIR kids are old enough, it'll be against the law.

        More likely the entire infrastructure will have collapsed, and the "self-driving" vehicle will be a horse-and-cart. Mainly brought about by crushing regulation, rampant litigation, API and patent trolls making ANY level of development and interoperation outright impossible, etc. And everyone will be too busy looking at cat videos to notice it happening, right up until the day the web goes black.

      5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Coat

        "Te Pedestrian" or "The Last House Call" come to mind.

        Y'know.

        Tipping points. "Normal" behaviour.

      6. Michael Thibault

        Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

        "There will come a day when…"

        Time to invest in Red Barchetta's.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

          "Red Barchetta"

          Only red ones? Mine are BRG.

          However, it raises an interesting point(s) ... When the Sun throws us a CME[0], how many of these fancy computer-controlled vehicles will still run? How many will be scrapped by the insurance company? How long will it take the vast majority of folks world-wide to regain their "normal" transportation?

          Somehow, I suspect my '65 Sunbeam Tiger and '69 F-250 will be on the road far sooner than my neighbor's '17 Tesla and '18 Cadillac Excursion. And the farm trucks & tractors (all diesel, with mechanical fuel pumps) will probably not skip a beat.

          [0] When, not if. Are you ready?

          1. Michael Thibault

            Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

            "Somehow, I suspect my '65 Sunbeam Tiger and '69 F-250 will be on the road far sooner than my neighbor's '17 Tesla and '18 Cadillac Excursion. And the farm trucks & tractors (all diesel, with mechanical fuel pumps) will probably not skip a beat."

            Until the fuel in the tanks is consumed. After that, they're as useless as the Tesla and the Caddy. Your car is a system, most of which you don't own or control.

            "Are you ready?"

            Pumped. Bicycle tires, I mean. All set.

      7. sisk Silver badge

        Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

        but on public roads driving your own car will rapidly become viewed as violently antisocial insanity. I've been saying for a few years now - by the time my (so far unborn) kids are old enough to learn to drive, they won't need to bother, and by the time THEIR kids are old enough, it'll be against the law.

        I highly doubt that. For starters, there will still be cars on the road 40 years from now that were built before self-driving cars were a thing. Not many mind you, but there will no doubt be some just as there are still people driving around in cars made in the 1960s today. Around here it's not even unusual to see a mid-60s model muscle car in the parking lot at the local grocery store. In fact, given the type of person who drives them, it's likely that a lot of those cars will still be running up until their current owners are too old to drive. Even in the unlikely event that autonomous drive becomes mandatory there will be holdouts in older vehicles. Just like seat belt laws, autonomous drive laws will not apply to cars that don't have autonomous drive.

        Second, we're at least a couple generations from people really being completely comfortable with autonomous cars. More than a couple if the robot apocalypse genre continues to be popular in the future. Too many people actually think Terminator is a realistic scenario.

        Third, software is glitchy. Every time some car manufacturer issues a bad update or a car gets hacked - and make no mistake, both will happen on occasion if autonomous cars are widespread - it will be a reminder that computers are not 100% trustworthy.

        Yeah, autonomous cars will probably - quickly - get to the point where they're safer than a human driver. But that won't matter. Just as flying is much safer than driving and people still get nervous flying, autonomous cars are going to make the average person nervous for a good long time.

      8. Bill Michaelson

        Re: Even in the extremely unlikely event that fully autonomous vehicles ever become viable

        In my admittedly optimistic view there is room for a happier alternative - wherein the increasing disparity between human frailty and robotic reliability leads to higher certification standards for human drivers. Still, I might not be able to afford the insurance as a human driver.

  2. LDS Silver badge

    We had crashes because the autopilot disengaged without the pilots noticing...

    ... and crashes because the autopilot didn't disengage.

    AFAIK in big planes if you apply enough forces to the controls the autopilot disengages automatically (but there could be exceptions, i.e. throttles) , but it doesn't happen in small ones with less or no fly-by-wire systems and sensors.

    Both led to crashes - it's a matter of situational awareness - if you're distracted/overloaded and lose it, it becomes dangerous - or fatal.

    It's not an easy decision, anyway, who should override who and when. Again, there were situations when pilots taking control would have been the right decision, and others when leaving the autopilot control the plane would have been the right one.

    Both can have the wrong inputs and take the wrong decision. Anyway, pilots still have (or should have...) the proper training to take control - with autonomous cars, will the user still be required to have driving skills?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: We had crashes because the autopilot disengaged without the pilots noticing...

      That confirms what I was about to ask then. Which was that I thought pushing the yoke would disable the autopilot and give the pilot control. After all, there might be times when you see another plane late, and want to be moving the stick quickly, without having to reach for the off switch first. I didn't realise small planes operated differently.

      This is a bit like the Air France flight 447 crash. Where the aircraft was "averaging" the inputs of the two pilots - whose cockpit discipline had broken down and were both trying to fly the plane at once. This is a situation that can't be allowed - and the automation shouldn't allow. Only one person (computer) can be flying at once - and even if they're doing it wrong, it's still unlikely to help if there are two simultaneous sets of inputs. Then nobody knows what's happening. And because of that, it becomes much harder (to impossible) to correct that intial error.

      1. Alan Johnson

        Re: We had crashes because the autopilot disengaged without the pilots noticing...

        @ I ain't Spartacus

        "This is a bit like the Air France flight 447 crash. Where the aircraft was "averaging" the inputs of the two pilots - whose cockpit discipline had broken down and were both trying to fly the plane at once"

        This is not really true. One of the pilots caused the crash with a consistently incorrect control input for over 3 minutes. There was a time period when thr other pilot had a good control input but the problem wa sthat one pilot held teh controls in a completely in appropriate position for minutes despite (not continuosly present) appropriate warning messages from the aircraft and despite his training. It can't really be blamed on the averaging.

        There is an argument that it was due to automation but a much more subtle one. Normally the pilots error would have been handled by the aricraft as it prevents a stall. However there had been a fault in the sensors which meant this level of protection was disengaged but the aircraft was still perfectly flyable. Some have speculated that the pilot concerned had become so used to the protection provided that under stress he defaulted to behaviour which was only safe if the protection was in place. I suspect something like this may happen with automatic cars that humans are put in place as fallbacks when the car goes wrong and therefore blamed by accidents caused when the automated systems fail unexpectedly putting the human driver in a dangerous situation with little or no warning and low situational awareness.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: We had crashes because the autopilot disengaged without the pilots noticing...

          Alan Johnson,

          I disagree. Obviously the biggest cause of the crash was that pilot losing situational awareness and stalling the plane.

          Training and discipline also broke down - given that both pilots had hands on the controls. Not helped by that model having side-sticks, so it's much harder to notice what the other pilot is doing.

          But the controls of the plane are also badly designed. Because averaging the inputs is completely fucking pointless. The plane can't know which of those two inputs is correct, so what it should be doing is complaining about it, locking the controls and doing neither - or just doing one - and disabling the other stick. Or you have connected yokes, so it's obvious. Silently averaging them means that nobody now knows what's happening - and if one pilot is correct you've turned a 50/50 chance of him getting control and saving the day into a 100% chance of failure.

          Obviously it's also a problem that we've trained pilots for fly-by-wire that won't let them cause stalls - and not trained them enough on the failure modes of fly-by-wire where that's no longer the case.

          So it also seems to me that sidesticks are possibly a bad idea - and you want a physical yoke - because that way you can physically see and feel what the aircraft controls are doing - and that means the non-flying pilot has a better chance to work the problem. Interfaces need to be as simple as possible, as yet anther warning alarm will get ignored under the consistently running stall alarm, which I seem to recall alternated with an overspeed alarm.

        2. Johan Bastiaansen

          Re: We had crashes because the autopilot disengaged without the pilots noticing...

          "It can't really be blamed on the averaging."

          No, it can and should be blamed on averaging. Averaging two similar inputs is appropriate. Averaging two very different or even opposite inputs is clearly a mistake. This was an error in the system.

          Because the system was designed and approved by people who were later asked to decide who was to blame, they decided to blame the pilots. But they shouldn't have been allowed on de judges seat, they should have been in the booth of the accused.

          It seems we humans are simply not capable of building complex and robust systems.

          Yet non-techies, like politicians, managers and other fools, are very impressed by complex systems, probably because they are very expensive.

      2. Johan Bastiaansen

        Re: We had crashes because the autopilot disengaged without the pilots noticing...

        "This is a bit like the Air France flight 447 crash. Where the aircraft was "averaging" the inputs of the two pilots - whose cockpit discipline had broken down and were both trying to fly the plane at once. This is a situation that can't be allowed - and the automation shouldn't allow."

        This really is a no-brainer. One of the pilots is called the captain, the other is the called the co-pilot.

        The software must be designed by morons, there is no other logical explanation.

        Find them, throw them out of a flying helicopter.

        NEXT!

        You will see the quality of the software increase dramatically.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We had crashes because the autopilot disengaged without the pilots noticing...

          "One of the pilots is called the captain, the other is the called the co-pilot. The software must be designed by morons, there is no other logical explanation."

          ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

          In air accident reports they are called 'the pilot flying' and the 'pilot not flying' or similar terms.

          Cockpit management assigns those roles for various reasons, and often the 'captain' is not flying the plane.

          In an emergency there are good arguments that the 'not captain' should be flying the plane (physical skills) while the 'captain' should be figuring out what the f*ck is going on and the best way to recover from that (knowledge, mental skills, experience). More planes are lost to bad problem analysis and inappropriate recovery procedures than to an inability to move a control column.

          Who flies the plane should be decided by the commander of the aircraft, not software.

      3. Daniel 18

        Re: We had crashes because the autopilot disengaged without the pilots noticing...

        "Which was that I thought pushing the yoke would disable the autopilot and give the pilot control. After all, there might be times when you see another plane late, and want to be moving the stick quickly, without having to reach for the off switch first."

        I believe this is the approximate case, with later systems being more nuanced.

        I seem to recall reading at one time that Boeing disengaged the autopilot completely, while Airbus dropped into an 'alternate law' mode. Thus the Boeing pilot had total control and was responsible if control inputs broke the airplane or caused loss of control, requiring the pilot to deliberately moderate control inputs, while the Airbus pilot could demand maximum maneuvering, leaving the computer to ensure that the aircraft would not fail structurally, or go into an uncontrollable state. Sort of like old mechanical power brakes versus ABS brakes.

        In modern fighter jets the computer is never wholly out of the loop, as those planes cannot be flown without computer assistance, but I have no idea what the policies / law structure might be.

    2. Michael Thibault

      Re: We had crashes because the autopilot disengaged without the pilots noticing...

      "…pilots still have (or should have...) the proper training to take control…"

      This almost sums things up. I'd add: it seems you can fly a plane only if you have a complete understanding of how control surfaces make it possible to fly it, but you can use the automata within without understanding how that works.

    3. Daniel 18

      Re: We had crashes because the autopilot disengaged without the pilots noticing...

      "Anyway, pilots still have (or should have...) the proper training to take control - with autonomous cars, will the user still be required to have driving skills?"

      One might expect that a vehicle will work for any authorized person (paying for a trip, owning the vehicle), but non-autonomous mode will require a licence to drive and a key, token, or code to enable manual mode, or verification of licence possession... or perhaps just a button and automobile analytical code to call the car rental company if driving operation characteristics indicate incompetence or inability.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "As more of us clamber into cars with self-driving capabilities, that advice may become words to live by."

    And if the car has no manual controls? Words to die by?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You wanna give control of the car to a drunk with a sense of invincibility? OTHER words to die by?

  4. Tom Kelsall

    I know that military aircraft...

    ...have automatic disengage when the pilot moves the control column more than a certain amount; and also an ICO (instinctive cut-off) switch on the front of the control column to enable fast and complete disengagement.

    Why this isn't a mandatory safety feature on ALL autopilots is a mystery; after all the slightest dab on the brake pedal has disengaged cruise control for years?

    Mine's the one with the brown stain at the back.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: I know that military aircraft...

      "Why this isn't a mandatory safety feature on ALL autopilots is a mystery"

      The risk of pilots aspiring to the Mile-High Club and accidentally knocking the stick with a flailing limb while not actually sat at the controls? A bad time to disengage autopilot.

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