Germanwings Flight 9525 crashes in French Alps

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The point is computers can't see.

 

 

 

The main obstacle self-driving technology has right now is lack of real computer vision.

 

Absolutely right. That's the reason why autopilots on planes are already a realistic alternative to human pilots while self-drive cars are at an experimental stage and still have a long way to go.

 

When flying (big) planes the pilots rely mostly on instruments, not on their verly limited view from the cockpit. Processing instrument readings and deciding what to do is something that can be done (and is done) with existing technology. The only phase where visual evaluation of the plane's surroundings comes into play is during landing, but even there, there already exists reliable technology that can safely guide a plane to the runway even during conditions of zero visibility.

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Director of Google Car Team Chris Urmson agrees that the Google autonomous car wouldn’t be able to spot a police officer frantically waving you to stop. I hope you are not thinking what I am thinking because it is really not nice and my mummy tells me I shouldn't laugh at things like this.

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The thing is, most people posting here seem to be basing their opinions on pop science articles and puff pieces and making vague forcasts about the future.

 

How many people here actually know how an auto pilot works, what it can and cannot do? How many people actually knows how much an ICE driver has to do, is it just open and close the doors, do they have an chose the speed? do you know?

 

It isnt so much that what anyone is posting is wrong, but rather it is almost all uninformed speculation.

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I am in no way an expert but I have seen in 1991 an autonomous plane take off, cruise, land and return via another route. Routes were planed by a pilot but there was no other interaction except to allow it to take off and land.

 

This was a while ago and I cannot imagine the technology has regressed.

 

For all practical purposes high speed train also drive themselves, the pilot is there 'only' in case of emergency (such as a loud bang on the front of the train) I had the privilege of being in the cockpit for one of the speed record and the pilot was talking and looking at us the whole time.

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While I do agree that auto-pilot is slowly going to become even more in control of flights, but even though I am strongly pro-technology, I am also not in favor of a completely automated plane. Aside from the potential of someone on the ground taking control my major concern is with the sensors. I agree many plane (not the most recent one of course) are down to human error - but this is often the result of incompetent reactions to "false sensor" readings. A human could (read should) be able to determine false readings, however, this is all a computer has to go on.

 

SL

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For all practical purposes high speed train also drive themselves, the pilot is there 'only' in case of emergency

 

This is not quite correct (or it depends on what you mean by emergency)...

 

There is a large catalogue of instructions which is given to the train driver and includes a multitude of different procedures he has to follow for different cases (sometimes known technical problems on the train, not necessarily safety-relevant/emergency). Above a certain complexity and/or amount, the relevant authorities refuse to accept such instructions for the driver and demand an automatic solution (which may lead to several months' delay in bringing out new technology). From my experience on high-speed train projects, I do not see train drivers becoming unnecessary in the foreseeable future.

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...

 

I have been on a number of flights where one of the flight deck crew has come out. ...

 

Wow, coming out while in the middle of piloting an aircraft might not be the best place to do that.

 

Of course, what better place to come out than in a cockpit?

 

And that's why I only do one show per night.

 

[gets hat; heads for door]

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I do not see train drivers becoming unnecessary in the foreseeable future.

 

I see train drivers going the way of elevator operators.

 

High-speed trains use dedicated tracks equipped with modern signalling equipment. They already rely a lot on technology as the driver has very little time to react at 300 km/h. That makes them easier to automate than old-fashioned trains.

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Could have happened that all this sophisticated equipment just went out of service while the train was at full speed.If not yet just a matter of time. Just as it was a matter of time before a metal ill pilot decided to crash his plane.

 

And even the oldest old fashion trains had/have an automatic brake mechanism once the train driver doesn't push that button next to him every 30 seconds.

 

Automatic trains, automatic planes, automatic cars - all will prevent accidents, malfunctions and critical situations of the old and known kind. And cause new , unknown ones.

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Without elevator girls, whom would Japanese men be able to grope? That's one job that can't be replaced by a machine

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Since I'm not an engineer, I asked a few colleagues in the dept I work in (automatic train protection for some of the highest speed trains in the world) - they all agree NO WAY a train safety concept for a driverless high-speed train can be introduced any time soon (like in our lifetimes) which could get through homologation.

 

Maybe you guys have more expertise on this topic than they do - we'd probably look at your application if you do, though ;-)

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I think saying this wont happen in our lifetimes is quite a bold statement. It is easy to forget how quick things change. The first jet airliner was only just over 50 years ago, the microwave, home computer, broadcast colour television and many other things fall into that kind of time period into the past. I think it is very hard to say for sure that we will or wont see anything specific in the next 50 years.

 

Not claiming to know more than your engineers, but I honestly doubt whether anyone can make accurate predictions about technology or regulation more than a couple of decade ahead.

 

Note, 50 years is an arbitrary period of time I know you didnt state that or any other specific number of years.

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Since I'm not an engineer, I asked a few colleagues in the dept I work in (automatic train protection for some of the highest speed trains in the world) - they all agree NO WAY a train safety concept for a driverless high-speed train can be introduced any time soon (like in our lifetimes) which could get through homologation.Maybe you guys have more expertise on this topic than they do - we'd probably look at your application if you do, though ;-)

 

They do have a point. There are legal obstacles to overcome, which may actually be trickier than technological ones. It's like those cars that can do parallel parking but which still require the driver to press the gas pedal to get the car to move forwards and backwards during parking. From an engineering point of view this manual use of the gas pedal is totally unnecessary. It's just a legal trick to shift the legal responsibility to the driver if something goes wrong.

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I think saying this wont happen in our lifetimes is quite a bold statement. It is easy to forget how quick things change. The first jet airliner was only just over 50 years ago, the microwave, home computer, broadcast colour television and many other things fall into that kind of time period into the past. I think it is very hard to say for sure that we will or wont see anything specific in the next 50 years.Not claiming to know more than your engineers, but I honestly doubt whether anyone can make accurate predictions about technology or regulation more than a couple of decade ahead.Note, 50 years is an arbitrary period of time I know you didnt state that or any other specific number of years.

 

This is going to happen much earlier than 50 years, especially for planes. There are enormous amounts of money currently being invested in developing self-flying drones, both for military and non-military purposes. Drones can already take off and land by themselves, even on aircraft carriers where the margin of error is much smaller compared to a landing strip on land (see the video here). The US military has even managed to retrofit F-16s to fly with no pilot (video here). Once we've mastered auto-piloted planes and drones for military purposes, it won't be much of a challenge to adapt that technology to commercial airliners. First for cargo, then for passengers.

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Once the technology has been perfected for drones, it will only be a small step to adapt it for commercial airliners.

no.

 

Even humans are not allowed do fly Airbus if they only have a license for glider. Not a small step, but 50 long years.

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This is going to happen much earlier than 50 years,

 

This is also a pretty bold statement. I suspect it is true, but my guess is that pilots and train drivers will be completely unnecesary for years or decades before they stop sitting there "just in case". But who knows.

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Just looking at it logically (without the technical knowledge), I can see more feasibility for planes than for trains. With trains, you still need to deal with the entire infrastructure of the tracks and stations (the entire concept for railways stations will have to be changed, preventing people from getting near the lines until the train has stopped...and thereby possibly losing more time by trains being stopped at stations for longer than they would gain in terms of money by not paying the drivers - just one example of where it may not be at all feasible/good business sense) and the possibility that any of these can be blocked at very short notice by people. The technology surrounding ATP and brake systems enables the trains to travel at ever faster speeds because the systems recognise, relay and react effectively to the driver's command within one second. But kicking in themselves without that command?

 

edit: zwiebelfisch, 50 years IS past MY lifetime :-D

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This is also a pretty bold statement. I suspect it is true, but my guess is that pilots and train drivers will be completely unnecesary for years or decades before they stop sitting there "just in case". But who knows.

 

Well, the most adequate assessment of our prediction capabilities is to look what people of 1950s thought about life in 2015. They were dreaming of colonies on Mars which has never happened.

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Well, the most adequate assessment of our prediction capabilities is to look what people of 1950s thought about life in 2015. They were dreaming of colonies on Mars which has never happened.

 

Exactly. Most of the expected things didnt happen, but loads of unexpected things did. Hence my suspicion when people start telling me that we will or will not have self flying airplanes in 50 years. It seems almost certain to me that it will be technologically possible for trains and planes to be automated. What we dont know is how society will change, maybe we will all have our flying cars and jetpacks (no, I dont think so either), maybe the paperless working from home office will finally be here and virtual reality is so good noone wants to travel (also doubtful) and we dont know how laws and regulation will change. Maybe the anarchocapitalists will take over and and and all travel is 100% deregulated, or maybe greens take over and it is all banned. Or maybe nothing substantial changes.

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Exactly. Most of the expected things didnt happen, but loads of unexpected things did. Hence my suspicion when people start telling me that we will or will not have self flying airplanes in 50 years.

 

There's an important difference between martian colonies they predicted in the 1950s and the self-flying airplanes we are predicting now: in the 1950s, they didn't have the necessary technology to set up martian, or even lunar colonies. They weren't even close. These were simply exercises in imagination.

 

Self-flying planes, on the contrary, are already a reality. We already have the technology to allow planes to fly on their own, and even to land in zero visibility with no input from the pilot (see Cat iiiC landing here). It's just a matter of perfecting it, fine-tuning it and deploying it to airports and aircraft world-wide.

 

From that article:

 

 

The "Cat IIIC" approach is unique in having no minimum "decision height" and no visibility requirement at all. The autopilot takes the plane all the way to the ground, even if the pilots cannot see anything outside their windows. That's what is happening in this video. This is where you really are putting your faith in technology -- and it's a sign of the robustness of the aviation safety system that such "auto-landings" routinely occur. (Not many airports, airplanes, and air crews are certified for fully blind "Cat IIIC" automatic landings, but slightly less demanding Cat IIIA and IIIB systems are more normal.)

 

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