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Gaining Trust in Autonomous Vehicles

First ever public demonstration of an autonomous urban air taxi in a mega city by volocopter
Autonomous urban air taxi in a mega city. Image Credit: Volocopter


Gaining Trust in Autonomous Vehicles


There exists an inherent trust in transport services related to the airlines industry. There is however, considerable trust deficit in public minds towards other modes of transport by land and water. This is evident in the fact that passengers didn’t seem to be too concerned with the transfer of decision making from the pilot to the autopilot mode in commercial aviation and is comparable to the public reaction to modern conductor-less locomotive systems. Autonomous vehicles though seem a far cry from winning implicit trust of the public.

The automotive industry, has witnessed continuous innovation in creation of effective and improved safety measures from time to time for example- seat belts, crumple zones, and eventually, airbags. Even if most of the transport industries mentioned above are not fully automated as yet; drone technology is being adopted for both military and civilian use increasingly and might soon contribute to making acceptance of driverless vehicles achievable

According to an article on Forbes by Zohan Fox, the automotive industry has much to learn from the Aviation sector. The aviation industry succeeded in winning the public’s trust by focusing on three important areas:

Frequent Maintenance and Checkups

Airplanes are monitored continuously. Be it a routine TRS or the installation of on-board sensors which transmit real-time data during the flight, plus the checks aircraft undergo at every touchdown.

Apart from several monthly functionality checks, a complete overhaul of planes involving replacement of outdated systems is carried out every six years. There also exists a flight hour limit for individual components exceeding which, necessitates replacement. This constant monitoring and frequent maintenance have helped build confidence in airline safety.

The autonomous industry must allow maintenance as a continuous, real-time process, just like airlines do. Robust diagnostic tools equipped the ability to identify any potential malfunctions by relying more on sophisticated computer systems and highly connected technologies could be developed for cars.

System Redundancies

In airborne system there exists a standby to a standby- right from hydraulics to flight management software!

The most prominent example is that of multiple engines to deal with engine failure. Multiple navigation systems – including GPS, Automatic Direction Finders, Inertial Navigation Systems, and radios in aircrafts ensure that pilots don’t veer off course, even if any one of these systems fails.

From a mechanical perspective, autonomous vehicles must possess robust, foolproof software backup options to avoid operational malfunction, apart from handbrakes to tackle a primary brake failure for example.

Government Oversight

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reportedly performs rigorous inspections and certifications to ensure airline safety and features a nationwide Air Traffic Control System for monitoring the movement of airborne planes and responding to any incidents that may arise in-flight.

If the developers of self-driving cars want public acceptance and participation, a strong regulatory system will have to be put in place so that safety and reliability is standardised and guaranteed.

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Cite this article as: Phillip Smith, "Gaining Trust in Autonomous Vehicles," in, August 7, 2018,

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