Up a creek without a pilot

You really wanna be asleep right now? Self-flying taxis.... Right. am i the only one who's a bit scared?

I love a bit of tech. Radar cruise control, downloadable autonomous-ish driving features on Tesla; all of that stuff floats my geek boat, no doubt. But Airbus has announced that it is planning to test a self-flying taxi by the end of 2017. Best of all, it can ordered in the same way you order an Uber and....

Well, a while back I woke up in a taxi, stopped at traffic lights in central London at 4:00AM and quickly realised that what had woken me from my deep and peaceful was the snoring of the driver, slumped over the wheel. We were in a Prius so I guess the silent progress of the machine had lulled the poor, knackered sod into slumber. I prodded and woke him and he pointed out that he was near the end of a long shift. Fair point. And if the Airbus flying taxi is flying itself, then there is no driver to fall asleep, is there.

Well no, there isn't. But what if the bloke or woman who designed the battery terminals had just come in from a three-day bender? What if whoever is in charge of making sure that the legions of un-piloted, four-rotor weird helicopter things don't bump into each other got dumped the night before and spent the night howling at the moon with a bottle of scotch and a foot long reefer in their quivering fingers? And someone has to fuel it. What if they're coming down with a nasty flu and put diesel in? They won't be there to explain themselves and neither will there be a pilot to bring the thing safely to the ground. There are too many variables here. Things go wrong on rollercoasters, with terrible and heart-rending results. And they're based on technology from the Victorian era. It only needs one tiny, tiny thing to go wrong somewhere along the infinitely long chain of design, build, service and maintenance events that would be needed to make such a thing work for it to end in an almighty catastrophe that will leave the passenger - an until then entirely smug and self-satisfied business exec buzzing their way to a 4pm in Swindon - screaming helplessly as the Honda plant just outside of town looms scarily large in a helicopter windscreen hideously uncluttered by the comforting presence of a pilot of any sort.

I might be sounding like the sort of coward that holds back progress here, but I mean, would you have a go? Would you?

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Comments (57)

  • This was also taken from onboard an R44 helicopter over an airport, precisely LAX - :D

      4 years ago
  • practicing AP everyday in Airbus and Tesla, I still love to disconnect everything and maintain my skills (and my hapiness !) who would have been ok a few years ago to board a train or subway with no driver ? Unfortunately inevitable

      4 years ago
  • I've never had a problem with autopilot on planes or the auto land capability. And a lot of plane crashes occur because the pilot misinterprets the instruments, or just didn't believe them and did something a bit weird.

    Sure, helicopters are arguably more complicated to fly than planes, but most of the time I'd be happier with a computer in control. And let's face it, the skies are a lot less congested than the roads and because the people who fly helicopters and aeroplanes are better trained than drivers collisions are much less likely.

    I'd more happily climb aboard an autonomous helicopter than a self driving car any day of the week.

      4 years ago
  • You fly AND drive from the right seat in GB?

      4 years ago
  • I always wonder how much money is poured into such advancements. It may sound staunch, or retrograde, but how can such brilliant engineers not realize the glaring fact that there is this force called gravity; and any system default, wire, or hooligan sensor will change the meaning of 'backyard barbecue' forever.

      4 years ago