Despite the irrational fear of flying in planes, statistically speaking, planes are the safest modes of transport currently available. However, the irrational fear persists, of which is predominantly predicated on an equally irrational need for control. Even though automobiles kill a substantially larger number of people per year than planes, many people still prefer the former because of the fact that they have actual control over the steering. Which is why what I’m about to tell you isn’t likely going to help alleviate those emotional burdens of yours.
Thanks to a joint partnership between Aurora Flight Science and DARPA, a one-armed robot has successfully landed a simulated Boeing 737, thus helping pave the way towards a near future where planes are no longer controlled by humans at all; rather by artificial intelligence (AI). Yes, I know, this might be giving some of you the shivers down your spine, but in truth, this is great news.
As part of DARPA’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program, the robot’s main function was to serve as a co-pilot in a two-crew aircraft. This would then allow the robot to reduce crew operations, all the while maintaining or improving the accuracy and efficiency of the flight itself. The ultimate goal, however, is to alleviate, if not altogether eliminate, the human factor of flight in its entirety. By successfully showing that an automated system can be quickly and cheaply tailored into the aircraft, and then proceed to safely launch and touchdown said aircraft, that goal has taken one more step forward in being officially realized.
Five to ten years from now, we will likely begin witnessing increased automation within each and every transportation system available to us. Just as automobiles are moving towards being completely automated, so too will aircrafts such as planes. It may take us a while in getting used to a world of which is becoming increasingly reliant upon an emerging invisible computation system known as AI, but either way, it will substantially decrease the number of fatalities from each mode of transportation.
“Having successfully demonstrated on a variety of aircraft, ALIAS has proven its versatile automated flight capabilities. As we move towards fully automated flight from take-off to landing, we can reliably say that we have developed an automation system that enables significant reduction of crew workload.”
– John Wissler,
Aurora’s Vice President of Research and Development
Thirty to fifty years from now, nearly everything we see, touch, and interact with will have been transformed by AI and robotics. Mass automation will have disrupted every major industry, including our means of transportation. This invisible computational system will not require hands-on interaction – at least not in the physical sense. Rather, this computational system will be heavily reliant upon voice and thought-based interactions. And then there’ll be times when you won’t even have to say or think anything, for your previous actions will have already given the system enough to know exactly what you want and what you need.
Photo Credit: Aurora