Even if it may sound incredible and/or implausible to many of our readers, the robots are taking over slowly and if you think this is a joke, we just got word that airliners without a human pilot at the controls are expected to fly passengers throughout the world within the next 10 years if not sooner. Obviously, everything depends on technological developments which will lead to the rise of the AI (Artificial Intelligence) and how soon Skynet will go online.
I am only kidding a little bit, but the thing is, in a world where profit margins and the business bottom line are everything, airlines may save billions of dollars annually by replacing human pilots with “androids”. Even passengers will benefit from the complete automation of airplanes via an expected drop in ticket prices. According to an internal study by UBS’ analysts, “driverless” as in “pilotless” airplanes may generate 35 billion dollars annually in savings for companies. This huge lump of cash comes not only from ousting human pilots altogether from the cockpits (which are highly paid jobs by the way), but the theory is that airplanes will benefit from a safety boost, as computers are not so prone to error as humans are, or at least that’s the theory.
AI controlled aircraft will also eliminate the costs associated with human pilots’ expensive training. According to US safety data, almost 75 percent of accidents are due to human error. With AI in control, airplanes will be able to save on fuel and also to make the airspace less crowded, as they’ll be able to fly the planes closer together. Similar technology is already implemented by the military in their unmanned drones, meaning that since the respective technology already exists, it’s only a matter of time until it will be adapted to civilian aircraft.
It is believed that cargo flights will be the first to implement the pilotless technology by first removing one of the 2 pilots which are now required in a cockpit, then eventually ditching them both. However, judging from a UBS survey, passengers are not that thrilled with the prospect of pilotless airplanes, with 54% of them saying they wouldn’t fly such a devilry even if it was cheaper. Only 17% seem to be embracing the brave new world, which is a much lower percent compared to those enthusiastic about driverless cars. The thing is, even now the majority of airplanes are highly automated, with the newest generations being perfectly capable of landing without a pilot taking the controls. However, when things go terribly wrong, it would be nice to have a human in the cockpit, just in case. Just like humans, computers fail on regular basis, and even with the high-tech cockpits and automation, pilots are intervening daily when the current AI doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.
Most probably, pilotless aircraft will eventually become a reality, with pilots controlling/supervising airplanes remotely, just like military drone operators are doing currently. However, when it comes to the public’s perception of safety, many of us would feel uncomfortable knowing that one’s life is in the hands of some anonymous guy somewhere in a control tower hundreds of miles away rather than having a pilot on the airplane, who risks just as much as the average Joe Passenger.
The obvious option is to have autonomous flights with a human co-pilot. Nobody can argue that a human doesn’t have the better ability to adapt to unexpected circumstances any more than they can argue that a computer can’t be programmed to excel for expected circumstances. Or do you think a computer would have landed that jet safely in the Hudson River in New York City after a flock of birds destroyed both engines?
Life in thirty years from now will certainly be interesting:
Pilotless planes – so we can fire all the pilots
Driverless cars and vans – so we can fire all the taxi and delivery drivers.
AI replacing many professionals – so we can fire several million of them
Millions of other jobs automated – so we can fire millions of other people as well
Millions more migrants, most of whom are unskilled.
Looks like there won’t be many people left with a job to pay all the taxes for those receiving benefits. Has anyone in government actually thought this through?