Computer Science News Archive

AI experts at UCL develop a more robust autopilot system

Haitham Baomar and his colleague Peter Bentley are developing a special kind of autopilot: one that uses a “machine learning” system to cope when the going gets tough, rather than ceding control to the crew.

As reported by The Economist, today’s autopilots cannot be trained because they are “hard coded” programs in which a limited number of situations activate well-defined, pre-written coping strategies — to maintain a certain speed or altitude, say. A list of bullet points (which is what such programs amount to) does not handle novelty well: throw a situation at the computer that its programmers have not foreseen, and it has no option but to defer to the humans.

Mr Baomar suspected that a machine-learning algorithm could learn from how human pilots cope with serious emergencies like sudden turbulence, engine failures, or even—as happened to the Air France jet that was lost in 2009 — the loss of critical flight data. That way, he says, the autopilot might not have to cede control as often, and that, in turn, might save lives.

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Posted 22 Sep 16 11:30