With all of the effort currently under way to attempt to create driverless land vehicles (which I believe may be a rather misplaced effort) has anyone yet heard of any serious efforts also being made to one day try to eliminate passenger jet pilots as well? As a former private pilot myself, such a thought seems rather ludicrous, but just wondering. It seems to me the elimination of humans from overseeing human safety concerns such as flying or driving, would simply be "unsafe."
Serious discussion of removing passenger jet pilots? No.
Serious discussion of making pilotless VTOL aircraft? Yes.
Uber, for one, is already working on this. Check out this quote from page 40:
To fast-forward to the safest possible operational state for VTOL vehicles, network operators will be interested in the path that realizes full autonomy as quickly as possible.
In my personal opinion, there are several reasons why pilotless commercial passenger jets won't or at least shouldn't happen anytime soon.
- You can only program a computer to handle an x number of situations. Better computers can perhaps handle some unexpected situations, but not as well as humans can. Then of course there are going to be unknown bugs in the software/hardware. So someone needs to be able to take control if the computer no longer can handle the situation. If this person is on the ground, this must be done through a network connection (be it through the internet or otherwise). If that person is able to do it, another organisation will be able to crack it. If they cannot secure the NASA and/or the Pentagon well enough, they can't secure an airliner sufficiently. Therefore I believe there should always be at least one person on board who can take control
- The fairly recent Germanwings crash where the copilot locked out the captain and crashed the aircraft to kill himself and get his name in the books by killing all people on board shows that if there is one pilot in the cockpit of such jets, there should always be a second pilot.