The latest details from the investigations into the crash of Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco indicate that the jet was flying dangerously slow before it hit the ground. While the NTSB sorts out whether this was pilot error or not, DNews wondered, Would an autonomous piece of computer hardware and software have done better?
The short answer is probably, but that doesn't mean we should hand over control to computers altogether.
Although the technology giving jets the ability to land themselves has been around for decades, it's been limited to the military.
"When I was flying the F/A-18 Hornet, the level of automation made me step back and reevaluate my life," Missy Cummings, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems director of the Humans and Automation Laboratory at MIT told DNews. "The plane landed itself better on the carrier than I ever could."
She was convinced that the days of human pilots were numbered.
It hasn't happened because the technology has not moved into commercial airliners. Contrary to popular assumption, the autopilot systems on passenger jets do not handle take off, fly the plane completely and control the landing. In fact, these systems are designed to carry out orders, such as "maintain this heading" or "stay on this glide path."