Automation Transformed How Pilots Fly Planes. Now the Same Must Happen With Cars

he future of driving is supposed to feel like flying. The names some car companies give their newest technology—Autopilot, Pilot Assist, Super Cruise, Pro Pilot—are all aviation-inspired terms being used by automotive companies for their semi-autonomous systems. Just like with an airplane’s autopilot, the thinking goes, the driver pushes a button and the thing flies itself. Except even that interpretation is wildly wrong.

Airplane autopilot systems, and what pilots must do while activated, are much more complicated than that. Until the automotive industry and regulators reconcile a cartoonish version of semi-autonomous features with the reality of how to use them safely, the future may not be nearly as safe as one might hope.