My friend Don Norman wrote an op-ed this weekend calling for an FDA-like testing program before autonomous cars are put on the roads in the US. Clearly, some level of government approval is important. But I see lots of problems with using drug testing (FDA = Food and Drug Administration) as a model.
Here is an excerpt from a recent article about testing problems with Uber cars, which were the ones in the recent fatal accident. After the break, my assessment of how to test such cars before they are allowed on American roads.
Waymo, formerly the self-driving car project of Google, said that in tests on roads in California last year, its cars went an average of nearly 5,600 miles before the driver had to take control from the computer to steer out of trouble. As of March, Uber was struggling to meet its target of 13 miles per “intervention” in Arizona, according to 100 pages of company documents obtained by The New York Times and two people familiar with the company’s operations in the Phoenix area but not permitted to speak publicly about it.Yet Uber’s test drivers were being asked to do more — going on solo runs when they had worked in pairs.And there also was pressure to live up to a goal to offer a driverless car service by the end of the year and to impress top executives.
So Uber car performance was more than 100 times worse than Waymo cars?!
According to the author, naval ship handling still relies heavily on craft expertise. His article writes down some formulas and procedures to reduce collision risk. Source: When Am I Committed to Collision? | U.S. Naval Institute My own reaction is in a brief comment at the end of the article.
Here is another article in the same issue of US Naval Institute Proceedings that does a great job of explaining how collisions can happen, and why the captain of a USN ship is always responsible, and never completely safe.
This is the burden of command. A captain puts the lives of several hundred sailors into the hands of a young officer, typically 25 years old and typically green. So what does a captain count on to prevent disaster? The captain has “standing orders.” These are the rules in his or her ship that everyone (especially the OOD) lives by. …”
I have just uploaded Chapter 1 of my book manuscript. It summarizes four revolutionary changes in how people flew. It outlines some themes of the full book, including People and Work and Is Science Inevitable?. And of course it includes a few gripping tales of accidents averted – or not.
Commercial aviation today is very safe and scientific. But it wasn’t always. Please send comments, anything from typos to critiques.
Over August I will put up some photographs and key tables from the full book.
What’s a good place to put supplemental information, especially photos and tables, for my book? I have a lot of old photographs, and putting them into the book itself gets expensive. Some are in color and some are very large. Here are a few examples.
I could set up my own site, or use my publisher’s, but places like Tumblr know how to run photo sites. The ideal features I want include being able to link to pictures on other sites (due to copyright restrictions), able to create tables of contents, etc. Straight chronology won’t suffice.
include Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram. I don’t use any of them except to dabble, so I don’t know their strengths. Possibly Twitter or Facebook?
All advice welcome. Email me, or post comments here.
One contributor to the A320 crash off Brazil in 2009 (Air France 447) was that the two pilots were making opposite inputs on their control sticks. The aircraft was in a stall, and therefore it was crucial to push the nose down, to regain airspeed. The instinctive human reaction (of untrained people) is to pull the nose up, since the airplane is falling. To oversimplify a long sequence of events drastically, pilot made the correct move, but the other pilot apparently panicked, and pulled back on his control stick. He continued to do this as they fell from 40,000 feet all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
A new accident report says that the same thing happened in the crash of an Indonesia AirAsia Airbus A320, flight QZ8501, last year.
Board blames fatal overrun on pilot error.
Source: NTSB Issues Bedford Gulfstream IV Crash Report | Flying Magazine
Checklists were a major innovation in flying, and are now being pushed in health care. But as I research this, it’s clear that although pilots all swear by them, use is less than 100%. Perhaps less than 99% – and a 1% error rate is very high when there are hundreds of items on a flight.
It’s very hard to know the real number. But the pilots in this crash, both very experienced, did pre-takeoff control checks for less than 10% of their flights!
Data from a recorder installed in the airplane showed that in the previous 176 takeoffs, full flight control checks as called for on the GIV’s checklist were carried out only twice and partial checks only 16 times. The pilots on the evening of the accident skipped the flight control check, which might have revealed to them that the gust lock mechanism was still engaged.
This particular item – forgetting to unlock the “gust locks” – has been killing pilots since the first gust locks. Famous examples in the 1930s were the prototype B-17, and the head of the German Air Force. (Both discussed in my forthcoming chapter on standard procedures in aviation.)
This is the “entry page” for my paper on the slow adoption of better flying methods in WW 2. Please link to this page, rather than to the actual PDF, which I will be updating. Here is the paper itself. (July 19 version)
In the late 1930s, US military aviators in the American Army and Navy began using aviation checklists. Checklist became part of a new paradigm for how to fly, which I call Standard Procedure Flying, colloquially known as “flying by the book.” It consisted of elaborate standardized procedures for many activities, checklists to ensure they key steps had been done, and quantitative tables and formulas that specified the best settings, under different conditions, for speed, engine RPM, gasoline/air mixture, engine cooling, and many other parameters. This new paradigm had a major influence on reducing aviation accidents and increasing military effectiveness during World War II, particularly because of the rapidly increasing complexity of military aircraft, and the huge number of new pilots. Continue reading