Boeing’s B737 Max and Automotive ‘Autopilot’

Should the catastrophic plane crashes of Indonesia’s Lion Air last October and another by Ethiopian Airlines last week set off alarms in the automotive industry?


Automation technologies used in airplanes and autonomous vehicles are neither similar nor easily comparable. If anything, “Aviation autopilot is probably easier than an automotive autopilot,” according to Phil Koopman, professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s department of electrical and computer engineering.

For me, the most chilling aspect of the two Boeing 737 Max airliners that crashed within a span of five months is that these tragedies occurred despite presumed scrutiny by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — long considered the world’s gold standard for aircraft safety.