There seems to be a consensus that if driverless cars are ever to become universal, then the controlling system will have to be one single one — you can’t have competing, perhaps even incompatible systems fighting over the traffic. In other words, we’d need something like Europe’s Eurocontrol:
Eurocontrol’s Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System compares demand for flights in a particular area with the available capacity.
The system pulls together data such as flight plans, taxiing time, and flight position from numerous sources in multiple countries and collates them.
It can then track planes in real time to manage the number of planes in the air to make sure it doesn’t get too crowded.
Precise monitoring prevents the carefully balanced system from being thrown out by planes with delayed departures or arrivals.
Planes can then be herded into departure and landing slots at airports to keep the thousands of flights in Europe flowing smoothly.
ETFMS also helps plan flight schedules up to a week in advance to help airlines and air traffic controllers plan each day down to the minute.
Uh huh. Then something like this happens:
Up to half of all flights in Europe face delays today after a Europe-wide air traffic control system failed.
Eurocontrol, which runs the system, said that a technical problem means that as many as half a million passengers could be affected, disrupting travellers who went away for the Easter weekend.
‘Today 29,500 flights were expected in the European network. Approximately half of those could have some delay as a result of the system outage,’ Eurocontrol said. The agency said the system would be back up and running tomorrow.
The cause had been identified, it said, without saying what it was. The agency said ‘contingency procedures’ were in place to stop the system becoming overloaded but that these would be lifted later this evening.
Eurocontrol added that flight plans from before 11.26am BST were ‘lost’ and asked airlines to refile them.
The agency said it was a ‘technical fault’ and that the system had not been hacked, saying they were now ‘in recovery mode’.
“Lost”, huh? That’s comforting.
Here’s my takeaway. I am never going to submit myself to a driverless car. And I am certainly never going to board a pilot-less aircraft (which, incredibly, has been suggested by various airlines and aircraft manufacturers).
Systems fail occasionally — all systems fail eventually — and I’m not going to be a prisoner of this kind of happenstance, ever, if I can possibly avoid it.