At that point the CAA’s lead for UAS, Mike Gadd, stood up.
“Under the current legislative regime, the pilot is the commander legally responsible for flight. Issuing instructions to change the aircraft’s attitude in flight means you are now responsible. The level of integrity, compliance and certification required has just changed because [your software] is flying the aircraft,” he said.
I very much like the sound of Mike Gadd. There needs to be more people like him, and have them in charge of stuff, or at least having a Minister following their every recommendations to the letter.
The same home truth needs to be rammed into the numb skulls behind many (all?) of the self driving cars projects. As Tesla have found, there's no such thing as a semi-self-driving car. Either the driver is required to keep their hands on the wheel with their eyes open and on the road, or the manufacturer is liable for the car's every action. No grey, it kinda works half arsed solutions should be allowed.
The problem that Google, etc. have is that they're never going to prove that their self driving car is reliable. They might have a bunch of statistics, but thanks to the rigour enforced by the State of California we all know that those statistics aren't that great.
The problem we have with the hipster wankery that is self driving cars is that most people, including Ministers, think they know what driving is all about. A large part of the public is all for self driving cars, and there is definitely a market demand. Thus a Minister's opinion and actions are heavily pressurised by public opinion and a smooth talking Google exec. We rely on the Minister's sanity and willingness to ignore that influence and make decisions made on reasoned advice.
Thankfully, at least here in the UK, almost no one knows about flying in quite the same every day visceral way. There is unlikely to be a wave of public opinion demanding use of slick looking cool stuff to control drones / UAVs, and so the firm advice of someone like Mike Gadd is, effectively, law.
And so it comes down to this; if you're developing software that performs a safety-critical job, making it shiny is not going to result in it being licensed for use. A lot of these projects seem to be concentrating on the shiny-shiny hey look it nearly works cool stuff, whilst ignoring the cold, hard facts of compliance with the law and regulatory frameworks. And if they don't address those problems, they're just pouring someone else's money down the plug hole.
I wonder if the investors are listening to people like Mike Gadd? They should do. They're being taken for a ride (pun not intended) by engineers who should know better. How does this come about?
State Registration of Engineers
The profession of Engineering is not regulated in the same way as, say, being a medical Doctor. A doctor is legally empowered to make decisions about what happens to other people, and legally responsible for the consequence. An engineer (except a civil engineer), is not. Worse still anyone can call themselves "engineer" even if they have no charter confirming that.
Thus an engineer developing a self driving car can say "it's works" without actually having to legally justify that; others are responsible for actually making the assessment as to whether it works well enough, or not. An engineer's statement on the matter has no more legal weight than my Granny's.
The problem is that engineers, or people who call themselves engineers, like to put themselves forward as having some kind of authoritative role in society. "I'm a shit hot software engineer working in the self driving car industry, you should believe what I say (but don't read the EULA)". In my entire engineering career I've spent most of the time desperately trying not to do that, at least not until "it" really is working. Fortunately I've never had to work on a truly safety critical system. And I am a chartered engineer.
It's different in Germany and (AFAIK) France where engineers (and the use of the title) are regulated by law. If a software or hardware engineer says "this works" and they are a registered engineer, it will come back to them if they were making it up, as has been the case in the VW scandal.
I think it is no coincidence that German and French engineering is, by and large, superb, and largely devoid of the bullshit aspects of "engineering" that is common in at the moment.
The sooner Parliament passes similar legislation here, the better.