Autonomous Planes Have Longer Journey to Mainstream Than Cars
UNITED STATES – An article posted online at aviationtoday.com discusses the prospect of autonomous planes and the obstacles facing autonomy in the aviation industry. Unpiloted planes have a longer journey to mainstream than driverless cars, as experts and the public seem more wary of computers controlling what happens in the air.*
Unquestionably, the aviation industry is interested in a future that involves autonomous airplanes. Eliminating pilots would save money and time and create more space for paying passengers on commercial flights. But the way in which airplanes can reach that goal remains unanswered. Leaders in the industry differ on the approach and whether it is a safe move for passengers.
Some proponents of aviation autonomy believe that the right approach is to move straight to unpiloted planes. Others believe this method is too risky and think that pilots need to be gradually phased out of self-piloting airplanes.
“We’re biting off too much if we try to go straight there,” said Michael Patterson, of the urban mobility team for NASA. “Some folks I know, people at Uber, had conversations with individuals who work for the FAA that were strongly in the camp of pilot first and then over time increase and get to autonomy. That’s at least part of their motivation for going that way.”
Still other leaders in aviation wonder if autonomous planes should ever be mainstream. While many accidents can be attributed to pilot error, countless accidents have been avoided because of skilled pilots. It’s questionable whether computers can replace the real-time human decision making required for numerous flight scenarios.
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