'Robot Cars Can't Count on Us in an Emergency'


I was school trained and certified in Army aviation accident prevention/investigation. I discovered the Smithsonian channel Air Disasters series over a year ago and I am hooked. The dramatizations of screaming passengers is disturbing but I find the crash investigations fascinating. They also have Alaska air crash investigations which are also fascinating. The Korean AirAsia 777 crash at San Francisco (SFO) replayed a few days ago. That was a puzzler. Weather was Clear And Visibility Unlimited (CAVU) and they were cleared for a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) approach. How the very experienced pilots could not feel and especially hear the engines being powered down or see that they were far to low defies explanation. It was determined that although they had autopilot engaged which is normal they were complacent in it’s infallibility. Even more disturbing was that only 2 of the 8 emergency exit slides automatically deployed. I’m not yet ready for “robot” cars.


Wasn’t that the one where the glide slope was out of service, a NOTAM was issued, and the pilots just assumed it was working anyway?

In other words, the machine didn’t screw up. It was being worked on, and the humans screwed up by assuming the machine was on even though they had been told it was off. I score that one for the machines, because if you tell a machine that something is off, it will most likely not decide that it is, in fact, on. :wink:


I was thinking the same thing but it was a different one where the pilots were aware the Instrument Landing System (ILS) was Out Of Service (OTS) but accidently switched the autopilot to ILS approach. Still human error.


I would be confident using an autonomous car mode that could be switched on for stop and go traffic jams. No risk of serious injury or property damage due to system failure. I have been retired for nearly 8 years and have the luxury of avoiding areas where jams are likely to occur. I also suspect it would be difficult to accommodate my preference of a manual transmission.


Mike, I have to respectfully disagree with you. Commuters would LIKE to have self driving cars but they won’t save money with them. Coast to coast to coast trucking companies biggest expense is road drivers wages. The potential savings are huge, plenty to pay a lot of lobbyists and for campaign contributions to change laws. As the old saying goes “money talks”


IIRC, becoming an airline pilot in South Korea is often patronage. I believe it was reported that way at the time of the crash. I have no direct knowledge of how pilots get their jobs in South Korea, but if true, it could explain how the crew could misdiagnose the situation.


How many drivers(?) who were busy texting, primping, dozing, etc., would have found themselves driving into the river?


I think you are correct. Much like the British military officer aristocracy system. Lord Cardigan (responsible for the “Charge of the Light Brigade”) comes to mind. I recall South Korean officials defending the pilots actions or lack thereof. Something that is highly stressed in military/commercial pilot training. Never forget your primary responsibility is to fly the airplane!


Their’s not to make reply
Their’s not to reason why
Their’s but to do an d die…

I learned that poem 50+ years ago and those 3 lines have come to mind on several occasions since then.


Good question about self driving cars and glitches or failure, what happens if the controls or sensors develop a problem?
Does the car pull off the road and stop?
Is it required to be someone sitting in the drivers seat?
Alert self driving feature is being disabled, you take over. :racehorse:


HAL: “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave.” :fearful:


Yeah I can imagine a self driving car wouldn’t be checking the bridge sensors to see if they were still there. Or maybe like the Navi system “make a U turn if possible”.

I was standing in my front yard the evening of the bridge collapse and got a call from my SIL worried that I was on the bridge. Another red Riviera went down with the ship and she saw it on TV but it wasn’t me. I was already home. By the grace of Yahweh. That’s why I put a rope in my car now and wondering if the cushions are flotation devices.

As far as paying attention, all you need to worry about is if the car or two ahead is paying attention or not. Then everyone will just be stopped behind in a massive traffic jam. So the odds are better even if 50% of the people are not paying attention. Is it better to get rear ended or go over the non-existent bridge? I dunno. So much for the engineers in the 60’s. Some day the may say the same thing about the current crop when all these cars with no drivers are playing bumper car.


Agreed–here is my standard response whenever someone comments about a news report of an older driver in a crash: “Take their license away from them!!”

Here is the thing, you can be a poor driver at any age.

If, as a society we are truly interested in road safety, we need to retest after the initial license. (not just “renew” every four years for Seniors, instead of six–what does that solve? (Maine))

Why not do it on a periodic schedule that is easy to remember: ten-year anniversaries from your very first license?

Thus, start at age 16 for example. Then, at age 26 you get another written, vision (BTW, a REAL vision test, by a licensed optometrist!), and road test.

Same at ages 36, 46, 56, 66, 76, 86, 96, 106, etc. , or 10 year anniversaries of whatever age you started. If you fail, you have 30 days to study up, get retrained, get new eyeglasses so you might pass the tests again.

People can be a menace on the road at any age: drinking/drug problems, arrogance, inexperience, simple lack of knowledge.

Expensive, you say? Factor the cost of hospital bills, rehab, police, ambulance, fire, road workers, etc. Not to mention deaths. What is THAT cost?

Within a generation or two, the culture behind the wheel would change, and people would stop thinking they could drive ** just fine after a few drinks…** and other poor presumptions.

If we are truly serious about road safety…and not just grandstanding. Are we serious? What does your state legislator think?


None of my states legislator’s have ever been accused of thinking.


I just renewed my driver’s license in Maryland. As it turns out, this is my 65th birthday. I had to provide certification from an eye doctor that my vision after correction is satisfactory to operate a vehicle. I’m checked out to drive any vehicle under 10,000 pounds and a motorcycle.


Younger people can be trained to be a better driver. If the older person caused the accident because of some mental capacity issue, then all the training the world isn’t going to help.


Exactly…do not issue licenses based on age…though some minimum is advisable…but rather on tests of actual skills and abilities (hearing, vision, arm and leg strength, etc.)

Older folks can be—and are (AARP and AAA for example) – trained to be safer drivers, but only 2% of those over age 50 take the AARP course, for example. Your parents, grandparents think they have nothing to learn/relearn? Please advise them of your concern and love and encouragement…esp. the men!

“I been driving since 1945, don’t need no one to tell me how…” Probably a good candidate…


Paul, just for arguments sake, you say that there should be mandatory testing throughout one’s life if we are really interested in safe roads. Yet the items you list as contributing to poor driving such as drug use, arrogance, lack of knowledge, and so on would not be items normally discovered in a driving test. Even a behind the wheel driving test. Everyone thinks there should be a law about something and that will solve the identified problems. Like said before, shoot, ready, aim. Target missed again.


I only had one notation on my cdl test, I did not move my head enough when looking for cross traffic at a 4 way stop. even though I could see plenty far up the road without turning my head 90 degrees. I would not be adverse to periodic driving test, but agree with @Bing


I would argue that “lack of knowledge” would inherently be discovered in a test. That’s, like, the whole point of a test, yes? :wink: