The Problems With Autopilots


Fri, Sep 5th, 2014 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Citing Flight 3407 as an example — which crashed killing everyone on board due to the pilot's failure to monitor the controls — the New Yorker's Maria Konninova looks at how automation "[has not] reduced human errors on the whole; it [has] simply changed their form."

When Casner and Schooler ran tests using a Boeing 747-400 flight simulator, they confirmed that the degree of automation a pilot relied on during a flight directly impacted how closely he paid attention to his work. It was true, as automation proponents argued, that pilots spent less time worrying about the minutiae of flying when they were using more highly automated systems. But they weren’t necessarily using the newfound mental space to perform higher-order computations. Instead, a full twenty-one per cent of the pilots surveyed reported thinking about inconsequential topics, just as Shaw and Renslow had done.



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