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Old 03-04-2019, 06:01 AM   #21  
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Joined APC: Jan 2006
Position: Engines Turn Or People Swim
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Originally Posted by CrimsonEclipse View Post

I'm amazed at the number of software and neural net experts that reside on this forum
I actually have real professional experience and education in that area, plus systems engineering. I also still talk to folks on the cutting edge in the valley. It's not happening any time soon (replacing pilots). They simply don't know how to to build it. Once they do (or think they do), it will have to prove it's stability in other arenas first. Traditional software can be tested almost perfectly, since you know all of the boolean logic and calculations that it's supposed to perform. That's lengthy and expensive but is routinely done in safety-sensitive applications. But AI software which can learn and evolve cannot be tested conclusively... you simply have to turn it loose in the wild and see how it does over time, like a very long period of time.

Once somebody thinks they can make an economic case, it will still have to get pre-approved by legislators and regulators, and also by insurance companies. The last is a real biatch, since they like to use statistical tables to quantify their risk and that will be impossible until some real world data is acquired (likely need some of that to come from other applications such as automated cars/trucks). I doubt any airline would go out on a limb and self-insure since one or two accidents could put them under... shareholders might not be interested in that kind of risk.

I suspect when airframers think they can do it, they'll build a new generation of "unmanned capable" airliners, which will be flown by probably two, maybe one pilot for a long time until enough operational data exists so that regulators, legislators, insurers, shareholders, and the travelling public accept the idea. Since we seem to be able to go a decade without a fatal accident in the US, that's probably the absolute minimum demo period. Of course the airframers and airlines will have to pony up for the new technology up front, with an uncertain timeframe on the ROI (elimination of pilots). Also there's the risk that all the (rather massive) investment could fail, if the unmanned mode isn't reliable.

Part of the problem is airframers and airlines have to invest money in something that cannot possibly pay off anytime soon. Business executives and shareholders typically don't think on very long (decades) timelines, unless there's some predictability involved. They're greedy, not really interested in making sacrifices on their watch so that future generations might reap a windfall. That's a big part of the problem... the long timeline, required large upfront investment, and the uncertainty. Economics and human nature are just as much factors as technology.

Oh yeah, and you have to get the government to revamp ATC as well. If you think automating pilots jobs is hard, try to getting the government to automate some lucrative civil service union jobs...
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