The August 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Automated to Death

As software pilots more of our vehicles, humans can pay the ultimate price. Robert N. Charette investigates the causes and consequences of the automation paradox

9 min read
Automated to Death
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines Flight 124 were just settling into their five-hour flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur that late on the afternoon of 1 August 2005. Approximately 18 minutes into the flight, as the Boeing 777-200 series aircraft was climbing through 36 000 feet altitude on autopilot, the aircraft—suddenly and without warning—pitched to 18 degrees, nose up, and started to climb rapidly. As the plane passed 39 000 feet, the stall and overspeed warning indicators came on simultaneously—something that’s supposed to be impossible, and a situation the crew is not trained to handle.

At 41 000 feet, the command pilot disconnected the autopilot and lowered the airplane’s nose. The auto throttle then commanded an increase in thrust, and the craft plunged 4000 feet. The pilot countered by manually moving the throttles back to the idle position. The nose pitched up again, and the aircraft climbed 2000 feet before the pilot regained control.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Artificial Synapses 10,000x Faster Than Real Thing

New protonic programmable resistors may help speed learning in deep neural networks

3 min read
Conceptual illustration shows a brain shape made of circuits on a multilayered chip structure.
Ella Maru Studio and Murat Onen

New artificial versions of the neurons and synapses in the human brain are up to 1,000 times smaller than neurons and at least 10,000 times faster than biological synapses, a study now finds.

These new devices may help improve the speed at which the increasingly common and powerful artificial intelligence systems known as deep neural networks learn, researchers say.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Amazon to Acquire iRobot F​or $1.7 Billion

The deal will give the e-retail behemoth even more access to our homes

4 min read
A photo of an iRobot Roomba with an Amazon logo digitally added to it
Photo-illustration: iStockphoto/Amazon/IEEE Spectrum

This morning, Amazon and iRobot announced “a definitive merger agreement under which Amazon will acquire iRobot” for US $1.7 billion. The announcement was a surprise, to put it mildly, and we’ve barely had a chance to digest the news. But taking a look at what’s already known can still yield initial (if incomplete) answers as to why Amazon and iRobot want to team up—and whether the merger seems like a good idea.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Harnessing the Power of Innovation Intelligence

Through case studies and data visualizations, this webinar will show you how to leverage IP and scientific data analytics to identify emerging business opportunities

1 min read
Clarivate
Clarivate

Business and R&D leaders have to make consequential strategic decisions every day in a global marketplace that continues to get more interconnected and complex. Luckily, the job can be more manageable and efficient by leveraging IP and scientific data analytics. Register for this free webinar now!

Join us for the webinar, Harnessing the power of innovation intelligence, to hear Clarivate experts discuss how analyzing IP data, together with scientific content and industry-specific data, can provide organization-wide situational awareness and reveal valuable business insights.

Keep Reading ↓Show less