The Strategist

Aviation experts: Don't hurry development of self-driving cars

10/14/2016 - 15:41

According to security experts, development of unmanned vehicles should be slower and more gradual, and many elements of the automation still require improvement. It took decades to fully introduce autopilot in airplanes. This was enough to test the equipment, and make necessary improvements in the system. In addition, despite the fact that the aircraft flight occurs mostly on autopilot, flight crews still have to be trained as opposed to drivers in unmanned vehicles.

Travis Wise
Travis Wise
According to The Wall Street Journal, aviation security experts are urging to be cautious in development of unmanned vehicles. They are sure that the technology should be developed slowly and gradually, and drivers should be aware of limitations of the autopilot’s features. In May, there was the first fatal accident with self-driving Tesla S, which intensified the debate about safety of unmanned vehicles. Back then, an auto piloted Tesla S crashed into a truck that was turning at an intersection. Tesla Motors’ representative stated that either the autopilot or the driver did not notice white part of the wagon on the background of bright sky and, therefore, did not have time to slow down. "We must improve collision avoidance system before the vehicles will become fully unmanned," - said former Head of the US National Transportation Safety Board, Mark Rosenker. According to Mr. Rosenker, some nuances in the unmanned drive technologies still require improvement.

Shawn Pruchnicki, a former pilot, who teaches aviation safety at Ohio University, says: "It will be absurd if we allow a person without any training in such a complex vehicle." According to him, it’s a mistake to think that "general public can just jump in the car and test its limits." First aviation autopilots appeared during the First World War, but the first auto piloted transatlantic flight was made only in 1947. During this time, various elements that make up the autopilot system have been repeatedly tested and improved. According to aviation experts, history of aviation gives one main lesson: risk mitigation requires considerable time. In addition, despite the high level of automation control, the crew members are still subjected to serious training, and there to must be at least two pilots to ensure safety in the cockpit during a flight.

According to Martin Chalk, an Airbus A380 pilot and President of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations, cars need very complicated automation systems to change lanes and perform other dangerous maneuvers. He also considers it important that unmanned vehicle have to be able to give way, where stipulated by the rules, and observe speed limits. After the accident, Tesla refused to turn off the autopilot feature in their cars, but have promised to expand awareness of customers about the autopilot’s limitations. The company recommends that drivers should not lose control of the road while driving on autopilot, and keep their hands on the steering wheel in case the person will need to take control of the car itself.

In general, many experts believe that spread of unmanned vehicles would greatly reduce number of accidents on the roads, as many of them are caused by human factor. According to Ptolemus consulting company, introduction of unmanned vehicles could reduce total number of accidents by 30%.