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Snap AV: Captain Sully on autonomous cars

Summary:
The Drive has an exclusive interview with Captain Chesley Sullenberger (aka Captain Sully of Hudson miracle fame) on the topic of autonomous cars and safety.Whether you’re an investor, a techie or simply a car enthusiast, it’s worth your time.As the interview explains, aviation is way ahead of the auto sector with regards to automating human operator processes. And as might be expected, it’s not all been smooth sailing. Pilots as a consequence have an important perspective to share on the issue of automating ground vehicles.We won’t riff too much of the original interview, as you should head over to The Drive to read it directly.But three key take-aways we walked away with were:Sully is sceptical about any autonomous system which isn’t 100 per cent perfect because any hybrid system which

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The Drive has an exclusive interview with Captain Chesley Sullenberger (aka Captain Sully of Hudson miracle fame) on the topic of autonomous cars and safety.

Whether you’re an investor, a techie or simply a car enthusiast, it’s worth your time.

As the interview explains, aviation is way ahead of the auto sector with regards to automating human operator processes. And as might be expected, it’s not all been smooth sailing. Pilots as a consequence have an important perspective to share on the issue of automating ground vehicles.

We won’t riff too much of the original interview, as you should head over to The Drive to read it directly.

But three key take-aways we walked away with were:

  • Sully is sceptical about any autonomous system which isn’t 100 per cent perfect because any hybrid system which still depends on humans in standby mode is likely to suffer from a degradation of human skills. It’s also more arduous for humans in the long run.”The greater concern in aviation-based studies I’ve seen is that not only are manual flying skills degraded—which decreases confidence and the timeliness of the intervention—the greater concern is actually the lack of constant mental engagement with the operating process, which means that analytical skills are also degraded.”
  • While Sully believes autonomous vehicles are coming regardless of whether we want them or not (due to the investment splurge which has already taken place) he does make the very good point that when it comes to safety an investment in basic driver education could have been more cost effective as a whole.
  • Sully notes the greatest safety improvement would come from having people resist the urge to use their phones while driving. “Everything they could do on a phone can wait, just like we waited to find out what was going on 10 or 15 years ago, before these devices existed.”

What’s striking with that last point, of course, is that those rushing to bring us autonomous vehicles are also those most likely to benefit from a world where more people spend more of their travel time on their phone.

Does that pose a conflict? And how do you square claims from high-tech auto companies that their autonomous driving programmes are safety motivated when they’re often also the ones introducing giant and highly distracting ipad touchscreens right within the reach of still human-dependent car systems?

Related links:
Can Sully Transform the World of Self-Driving Cars? – The Drive
Why Morgan Stanley is talking down autonomous car expectations – FT Alphaville

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Izabella Kaminska
Izabella Kaminska joined FT Alphaville in October 2008, which was, perhaps, the best time in the world to become a financial blogger. Before that she worked as a producer at CNBC, a natural gas reporter at Platts and an associate editor of BP’s internal magazine. She has also worked as a reporter on English language business papers in Poland and Azerbaijan and was a Reuters graduate trainee in 2004.

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