[FoRK] Robotic cars, software / Internet in cars, and Linux Ksplice, was: Re: > Re: The future of politics. Can, politicians prepare society for the major technology challenges ahead?, With Darren Reynolds.

Sean Conner sean at conman.org
Thu Feb 11 15:55:35 PST 2010


It was thus said that the Great Stephen D. Williams once stated:
> 
> Odd that people don't think of shifting into neutral and shutting off 
> the engine, or at least driving into the back of a vehicle going the 
> same direction to get some non-fatal resistance.  Especially the cop.

  Yeah, well ... too much reliance on the crutches of technology so they
don't bother thinking, or something like that.

> The Prius brake issue _is_ software related.  I was just saying to 
> (other) friends recently that A) in the next cycle or two every vehicle 
> will have a wireless Internet connection (for a variety of uses) and B) 
> (highly verified) software upgrades will just download when the vehicle 
> is off.  Even with current economics, the car companies are stupid for 
> not having had the forethought to make an Amazon Kindle-like deal with 
> Sprint/Verizon for that kind of thing.  Easy to bury the costs in an 
> already-expensive sector, lots of up sell possibilities, and one severe 
> recall and everyone easily comes out ahead.

  Great!  Now I have to worry about my car getting hacked [1].

  True story---a friend of mine worked at a company that made car
diagnositic computers.  They were testing their software on a BMW when there
was a power failure and they ended up bricking the car.

  BMW had to fly an engineer from Germany (to South Florida) to get the car
unbricked.  

  Then there's this little bit of reassuring news:

http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/philg/2010/02/09/public-tv-figures-out-how-to-fly-regional-airliners/

> Who crashed Colgan 3407? Actually the autopilot did. The crew told the
> autopilot to level the plane, but left the throttles back near idle. This
> caused a gradual speed decay. Then the pilots extended flaps and gear,
> resulting in a big increase in drag. They should have added power at this
> point, but did not. Acting less competently than the typical person on his
> very first flight lesson, the autopilot kept pulling the nose up in an
> attempt to hold altitude. Eventually it pulled the airplane past the
> "maximum lift/drag" speed in which it would hold the most altitude for a
> given power. And then it kept pulling until the airplane was just about
> stalled. And then it disconnected, dumping the trimmed-to-crash airplane
> into the laps of the sick and tired human pilots. Seconds later, everyone
> was doomed. See the NTSB animation of the flight.
> 
> The airplane had all of the information necessary to prevent this crash. The
> airspeed was available in digital form. The power setting was available in
> digital form. The status of the landing gear was available in digital form.
> The airplane had the ability to put synthetic voice announcements into the
> pilots’ headsets. Here’s what you’d expect to happen:
> 
>     * autopilot is set to descend and then level off and hold altitude at 2300'
>     * human pilots neglect to push throttles forward
>     * after a few seconds, autopilot annunciates "leveled off but throttles
>       are still at idle"
>     * pilots put landing gear down; speed decays very quickly
>     * autopilot annunciates "more power required to hold altitude and
>       airspeed"
>     * speed decays below 1.3 times the stall speed
>     * autopilot stops trimming back and says, this time in a very sharp and
>       loud voice "holding 160 knots, descending out of 2300' due to inadequate
>       power"
> 
> How come the autopilot software on this $27 million airplane wasn’t smart
> enough to fly basically sensible attitudes and airspeeds? Partly because FAA
> certification requirements make it prohibitively expensive to develop
> software or electronics that go into certified aircraft. It can literally
> cost $1 million to make a minor change. Sometimes the government protecting
> us from small risks exposes us to much bigger ones.

  -spc (Who's managed to land a simulated Airbus 320 with minimal
	instruction [2])

[1]	In the bad sense of the word.  Yes, I know, I should use "cracked"
	but that just sounds odd to me.

[2]	http://boston.conman.org/2007/12/28.2



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