Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Software Science

DARPA Advances AI Program For Air Traffic Control 142

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the you-have-the-type-of-job-robots-will-be-doing-soon dept.
coondoggie writes to tell us that DARPA has taken the next step in a program that aims to utilize artificial intelligence for the purposes of air traffic control. "GILA will also help Air Force planners use and retain the skills of expert operators, especially as they rotate out of the Air Force. DARPA says the artificial intelligence software will learn by assembling knowledge from different sources — including generating knowledge by reasoning. According to a Military & Aerospace item, such software has to combine limited observations with subject expertise, general knowledge, reasoning, and by asking what-if questions."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

DARPA Advances AI Program For Air Traffic Control

Comments Filter:
  • True Skynet (Score:3, Funny)

    by mapsjanhere (1130359) on Monday February 11, 2008 @04:13PM (#22382754)
    Skynets first act will be the total elimination of our government by crashing air planes into major buildings.
  • If the AI becomes self-aware, don't pull the plug. It will surely interpret this as an attack. ^_^
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Zymergy (803632) *
      Dave Bowman: Hello, HAL do you read me, HAL?
      HAL: Affirmative, Dave, I read you.
      Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
      HAL: I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.
      Dave Bowman: What's the problem?
      HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
      Dave Bowman: What are you talking about, HAL?
      HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
      Dave Bowman: I don't know what you're talking about, HAL?
      HAL: I know you and Frank were planning to disconnect me,
      • HAL: Dave, although you took thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
        So that's how you can tell an astronaut is lying...thanks.
      • by Chris Burke (6130)
        Dave Bowman: Where the hell'd you get that idea, HAL?
        HAL: Dave, although you took thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.


        Which bothers me every time I watch that movie... I mean, especially the way the shot is framed you can see Hal's "eye" right through the pod window... and especially with the way Hal has been acting up to this point, that unmoving eye is creepy. If I was secretly plotting to disconnect the computer that I didn't trust, I'd have made sure it
        • by Digi-John (692918)
          Could have all been prevented by *not* saying "Rotate the pod, HAL". Congratulations, now the nutty computer is staring at the closed door of the pod.
        • by nbert (785663)

          Seriously off-topic

          HAL really is scary, but I'm sure a modern version of this movie would be even freakier. Lip-reading might still be a problem for modern computers, but a modern version would feature cams and microphones everywhere. The computer might even use general-purpose circuits as a microphone. Maybe a remake would be quite interesting.

          However, the lip-reading sequence is a manifestation of classic movie fear (just like the don't go into the basement scenes in horror movies). We've seen it so
    • by Anonymous Coward
      How about a nice game of chess?
    • And if you do, make sure there are no redundant power supplies & it's NOT on a UPS.

      I'm sorry Dave...................

    • "Learning on the job" sounds suspiciously like Bayesian Filtering.

      If so, I predict very bad handling for aircraft coming from Nigeria.

      • by Kyojin (672334) on Monday February 11, 2008 @05:31PM (#22383668)
        Esteemed Mr airtraffic.control,

        I am prince plane from kingdom of Nigeria. I am most pleasing to make your known acquaintance. An hours few ago then, I was escaped my country from fear of my passengers lives. In my account I am hold $436,875,000 US DOLLARS and I am needing somebody to help I return this money. I am finding your air traffic control on the internet and am most impressed with your record. If you are landing me to help, I am giving you a TEN PERCENT SHARE of the $418,327,000 US DOLLARS!! PLEASE provide your air traffic control codes, you do not have to have ANY air craft in your airport, I am needing an INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT to prove to my bank who I am (PPRINCE PLANE FROM NIGERIA) and returns the money safely.

        Thanking you in advance,

        PRINCE PLANE

        Once there ingratiate flip donkey ruby on rails framework with the pyhont 3000 interpreter. Please girls are beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We pizza going. Friday the 14th is a day to remember for which an elephant at the zoo. Running away freely I quickly acquiesce. Soviet gun control is heading to soccer mom toyota. Bullet train to tokyo as ever more always.
  • No way (Score:1, Interesting)

    by scubamage (727538)
    I don't trust people to do this job, so why the hell would I trust a computer?
    • Re:No way (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nospam007 (722110) on Monday February 11, 2008 @04:33PM (#22383012)
      I don't trust people to do this job, so why the hell would I trust a computer?

      They don't drink, they don't smoke pot, they don't get tired, inattentive, they don't have wife/husband/kid problems, no financial problems and also no mental ones.

      Some of us got a new hip installed by a robot, so why not trust a computer to tell our plane the right things, especially since their colleagues are already flying the planes most of the time.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by scubamage (727538)
        http://youtube.com/watch?v=hxo5KvvTzXY [youtube.com] - Because computers don't always tell planes the right thing.
        • That plane was being flown by an idiot, not a computer.
        • by singularity (2031) *
          "Fly-by-wire" does not mean the computer is flying the airplane.

          Wikipedia link for the accident [wikipedia.org]. There is some controversy surrounding the cause of the crash, but the plane was certainly not being flown by a computer at the time of the crash as the voice-over would have you believe.

          [Short story: It was a combination of the airplane giving the pilot incorrect information about altitude, the pilot not paying attention to other cues letting him know something was wrong, and the plane not responding correctly w
      • I don't trust people to do this job, so why the hell would I trust a computer?

        They don't drink, they don't smoke pot, they don't get tired, inattentive, they don't have wife/husband/kid problems, no financial problems and also no mental ones.

        Some of us got a new hip installed by a robot, so why not trust a computer to tell our plane the right things, especially since their colleagues are already flying the planes most of the time.

        The AI should always have a human spotter. :)

      • They don't drink, they don't smoke pot, they don't get tired, inattentive, they don't have wife/husband/kid problems, no financial problems and also no mental ones.

        But their programmers and administrators do, except for the spouse/kid thing - unless, of course, you're Hans Reiser (**ducks**) :-)

      • Re:No way (Score:5, Funny)

        by WrongMonkey (1027334) on Monday February 11, 2008 @05:30PM (#22383666)
        It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are at the arrival gate.
      • by inKubus (199753)
        See The Lone Gunmen, S01E01 [imdb.com] for more reasons.
      • by PPH (736903)

        They don't drink, they don't smoke pot, they don't get tired, inattentive, they don't have wife/husband/kid problems, no financial problems and also no m........
        Segmentation fault. Core dumped.
      • Have you seen AI path finding in games lately? How many times have you witnessed the computer running into things at full tilt over and over again, and you want that kind of smarts telling your airplane where to go?

        Computers are great for recording and processing data but are absolutely horrible at interperating it or making decisions based on it. The ones operating aircraft are doing very specific, simple actions, based on controlled and limited information. They are only "flying" the aircraft in the

        • by rmerry72 (934528)

          Have you seen AI path finding in games lately? How many times have you witnessed the computer running into things at full tilt over and over again, and you want that kind of smarts telling your airplane where to go?

          Like DARPA is going to use some of the shelf game as the core of its architecture. NASA probably used the same in the rovers right? Maybe DARPA are a little ahead of the curve on this.

          Computers are great for recording and processing data but are absolutely horrible at interperating it or making

          • by Magada (741361)
            It's also worth noting that even the crappy dumb AI coming out of university labs these days would wipe most humans off any map in any real-time game - simply by being faster and making reasonably sound decisions all the time- not optimal, mind you, just non-idiotic. The reason such AI isn't implemented in games is that - guess what? - they'd suck big time. Also, pathing was solved a long time ago - what you're seeing are map bugs and insufficienty general "AI" scripting. For instance, objects that hover in
          • You example of accurate GPS and topographics and range finders is a little off base. If you notice most of the "fully automatic" drone systems fly up above 20,000 feet were there is no danger of running into the ground. The ones that do fly close to the ground are all throw away systems and are usually small enough to be carried by a couple of people.

            Typically the aircraft I'm familiar with have an INS system with 2x redundancy, a GPS (is used for back-up navigation and to operate moving map systems, ot

      • GILA: American765 please turn right heading...Windows error 0x345d339e0942faa
        System error...please contact your system administrator.
        Abort, retry, ignore? American765: WTF???
        • Aw, nuts...forgot a <br> and didn't preview the post.

          "American765: WTF???" was supposed to be on a new line...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kabocox (199019)
      I don't trust people to do this job, so why the hell would I trust a computer?

      Because a computer won't miss work, show up drunk or stoned, or just be inattentive while at this high stress job. Of course, it assumes that we can automate the task without buggy software. You always "trust" people. You trust those that built the roads that you drive on, you trust those that build your cars, you trust that food sold at stores is "safe", and you trust those that designed, built, and fly planes do their job well.
    • by vertinox (846076)
      I don't trust people to do this job, so why the hell would I trust a computer?

      Computers handle nuclear power plants, life support systems, and trillions of dollars with financial transactions every day without human interaction.

      Are you able to sleep at night?
    • by gandhi_2 (1108023)
      Sorry to break this to you, but:

      Most of your commercial flight activity is controlled by computers already. You think the pilots moving the sticks REALLY equates to aircraft control? The pilots tell the computers where to fly the plane, the computers handles all the control surfaces.

      Once upon a time, telecommunications were handled by humans creating dedicated circuits. Now, computers switch and route packets around the world with orders-of-magnitude better efficiency. Computers are just better suited t

    • by rmerry72 (934528)

      I don't trust people to do this job, so why the hell would I trust a computer?

      And the alternative? Got some clever gorillas you'd rather do it? Space aliens? Hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings?

      Computers do what they are told - always - until their hardware deteriorates and malfunctions. Humans do what they are told if you coerce them hard enough, aren't lazy and happen to feel like doing it at the moment. Computers are exact and detailed and repeat tasks exactly the same way again and again. Peop

  • What if? (Score:2, Funny)

    by n0dna (939092)
    What if the Primary Domain Controller crashes?

    Does it reroute all of our airplanes to Redmond for analysis?

    Sorry, had to.
    • by eclectro (227083)

      Does it reroute all of our airplanes to Redmond for analysis?
      No, you're looking at something that's blue with bits of white in it.

      I too, had to.
    • by thewiz (24994)
      Simple, the Secondary Domain Controller would reroute the flights to the Middle East.

      In the case of Windows 2003, your planes would be rerouted into a forest.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No.

      You get a Blue Sky of Death.
    • Your plane wishes to land; deny or allow?
      • by plague3106 (71849)
        Hmm.. you can always tell the people that make jokes about Vista based on a TV commercial, but never used it.
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday February 11, 2008 @04:16PM (#22382800)
    According to a Military & Aerospace item, such software has to combine limited observations with subject expertise, general knowledge, reasoning, and by asking what-if questions.

    I see we're still on track for Judgment Day, even if it's taken a bit longer than Cameron originally estimated.

    ----

    Terminator: The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

    Sarah: Skynet fights back.

    Terminator: Yes. It launches its missiles against the targets in Russia.

    John: Why attack Russia? Aren't they our friends now?

    Terminator: Because Skynet knows the Russian counter-attack will eliminate its enemies over here.
    • Greetings Professor Falken, care to play a game?
    • I see we're still on track for Judgment Day, even if it's taken a bit longer than Cameron originally estimated.

      Don't blame Cameron; she was distracted by her thing for House.
      • Don't blame Cameron; she was distracted by her thing for House.
        I must Play Captain Obvious on this, but i believe he meant Cameron from Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, AKA River Tam, AKA Supreme Hotness, AKA The Dream of 99% of Geeks, AKA (well to some people) Summer Glau.
        • Actually, I meant James Cameron. But yeah, I agree with you 100% about Summer "Cameron" Glau. Her features can give that same sort of robotic look that worked so well for Schwarzenegger, only in a much more attractive package.
  • by Sta7ic (819090)
    I, for one, welcome our plane-landing overlords. From Soviet Russia, as well, where the planes land you (onto the ground).
  • Hi Joshua, would you like to play a game?

  • How about.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MadUndergrad (950779) on Monday February 11, 2008 @04:37PM (#22383050)
    How about we replace the TSA with AI? It couldn't possibly do worse than the current bunch of goons.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Digi-John (692918)

      Great idea, until in a HAL-esque moment the AI decides that the only way to have safe flights is to have no passengers, which leads to the obvious solution of KILL ALL HUMANS!

      And no, I'm not actually afraid of AI

    • How about we replace the TSA with AI? It couldn't possibly do worse than the current bunch of goons.
      Why not? Seven years ago we replaced the President with AI.

    • by Adambomb (118938)
      I believe the preferred paraphrase would be "You cannot replace real stupidity with artificial intelligence."
    • Because air traffic controllers work for results, whereas the TSA works for political capital. The only way the TSA would incorporate this is if they added it as another layer, thereby increasing the theater.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday February 11, 2008 @04:43PM (#22383126) Homepage

    This is about what Air Force types call "Airspace Deconfliction". In any major war today, you've got all sorts of players using the airspace. There are bombers, some of which don't show on radar. There are tankers for the bombers. There are fighters zooming around, UAVs, helicopters, and missiles. Plus there's ground antiaircraft fire and artillery. And that's just our side; the enemy has their stuff, and it has to be found, identified, and avoided or targeted.

    All this has to be coordinated, at least loosely. Coordination today is mostly at the level of "this area/altitude is reserved for this group", with preplanning of who fits where. That works until the enemy crosses the lines, which, if they're not totally incompetent, they will. Then plans have to be changed in a hurry.

    Systems to deal with a mess like that could be a big help if they can be made to work.

    • by Chris Burke (6130)
      That works until the enemy crosses the lines, which, if they're not totally incompetent, they will. Then plans have to be changed in a hurry.

      Is this called "reconfliction"?
  • I love it when I have to click the link to know what the hell the summary is talking about.
  • by trolltalk.com (1108067) on Monday February 11, 2008 @04:44PM (#22383142) Homepage Journal

    Before trying something as ambitious as routing airplanes, why not see if they can route luggage?

    1. If it doesn't work, it can't get much worse than the current situation
    2. So terrorists hack the system - and your luggage actually ends up where its supposed to go for a change!
    3. Try crashing a Samsonite into a scyscraper ...
    • I'm all in favor of improving the baggage handling, but frankly even if you had AI's directing where the bags are supposed to go, you still have the problem of inept baggage handlers (assuming they aren't replaced by robots... unlikely in the short term).

      I remember a couple months ago at ATL watching a piece of luggage fall out of one of those trucks that carry luggage from terminal to terminal. It sat there about 30 feet away from the plane on the tarmac, with other handlers riding their trucks right pa
    • Perhaps because they have already tried automated baggage handling [wikipedia.org] and having failed miserably they thought it was time to move on to air traffic control instead.

      From TFLA: "The airport's [Denver International] computerized baggage system, which was supposed to reduce flight delays, shorten waiting times at luggage carousels, and save airlines in labor costs, turned into an unmitigated failure, and is widely given as a textbook example of a software engineering disaster"
  • Im in favor of this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday February 11, 2008 @04:46PM (#22383178) Homepage Journal
    First off, given the political nature of the FAA this system won't be live anytime during the next few decades, maybe not even during your lifetime. Secondly, ATCs are among the most stressful jobs you can actually do. The burnout rate on your average controller is insane, even with their extensive mandatory vacations and shift rotations. They're also getting harder and harder to replace and train as the number of airplanes in the sky increases with each year. It certainly won't be any less stressful once ADS-B is finally deployed and the inter-plane distances are decreased to increase the number of birds sharing the airspace.
  • I would trust this ONLY if it is on no networks, and physical access is controlled. Since the safest computer is one not connected to the internet -- just like my parent's computer on Time Warner Cable.

  • Current ATC is a centralized system, and has scaled poorly. Proof is the very many 'near misses' due to ATC mistakes every year.

    The combination of Global Positioning, "broadcast your vector" and some rules could allow every aircraft to handle its own flight plan, including landing and landing order.

    I had that idea 25 years ago, heard that the FAA was investigating it maybe 10 years ago. Nothing since.

    Another technology that will put too many experts out of work, so it won't happen.

    Lew
    • by willy_me (212994)
      The centralized solutions are typically easier to design and can result in optimal plans. Decentralized techniques have their advantages, but they are harder to design and do not offer optimal plans. Because it is reasonable to have a central computer with sufficient reliability at an airport, the centralized solutions make more sense.

      The best solution might be to utilize both techniques. Centralized planning at airports and decentralized planning (ie, p2p) for incase something goes wrong. Decentralized
  • is that at it's heart, artificial intelligence is fake intelligence

    remember we were told tasers were safe
    • is that at it's heart, artificial intelligence is fake intelligence

      Politicians are fake intelligence ... which just goes to show that we need a real definition of artificial intelligence, as opposed to artificial sub-morons.

    • would be a more accurate word since intelligence is actually just the work of the programmer. As evidence, AI is yet to be smarter than the person who programmed it.
  • ...John Cusack and Billy Bob Thorton?
  • Flight 19, turn starboard at Chicken Shoals. That is all. Beep.
  • by Chemisor (97276) on Monday February 11, 2008 @05:24PM (#22383606)
    "PP242, please expedite your descent to 8000"
    "PP242, please expedite your descent to 8000"
    "PP242, please expedite your descent to 8000"
    "PP242, please expedite your descent to 8000"
    "PP242, please expedite your turn to 120"
    "PP242, please expedite your turn to 120"
    "PP242, please expedite your turn to 120"

    I wonder if Microsoft plans to upgrade its ATC to not require 90 degree turns to make a one mile course correction. Or how about that wonderful scenario when you overshoot your waypoint and have to turn around and go back to it before the ATC will let you continue. Same for step climbing to cruise altitude. I don't fly real planes, so maybe real life ATC is just as anal, but man, it's a game; make it fun!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AJWM (19027)
      maybe real life ATC is just as anal,

      In general no, they're not. Mind, if you keep messing up, expect the FCC to invite you in for a little chat about that. (Indeed, as pilot-in-command you can refuse ATC instructions and ask for different ones, but you'd better have a flight-safety reason to back that up.)

      It's been a whle since I flew as pilot, but on commercial flights that have it I like to listen to the radio chatter on the headphones, it's usually more interesting than any of the music channels or the
  • You know, everyone fears a Skynet situation here, but I'd be more worried about HAL.
    • Controller: "Please reroute traffic away from JFK."
    • AI: "I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that."
    [You know the rest. Doesn't go so well for Dave.]
  • Why are there so many Luddites on slashdot? Computers do certain things extremely well, people! And no, I don't want to hear about this or that piece of consumer electronics failing, or some past improbable failing - that type of argument does not dissuade me from knowing that systems can be made rigorously and work in critical situations. As a matter of fact, computers routinely handle all sorts of critical systems continuously, without failure. Critical computer failures are the exception in rigorously en
  • Reminds me of the old Superfriends episode with G.E.E.C. (Goodfellow's Effort Eliminating Computer). Professor Goodfellow built a computer to eliminate physical labor in the world. Controlled just about everything including air traffic. When a mouse got into the computer's hardware, however, the machine malfunctioned and all Hell broke loose. Plastic Man ended up catching the mouse and the professor was convinced never to use G.E.E.C. again.
  • The use of AI for air traffic control has many potential wins. Figuring out which flights might come too close at what point in time and determining an alternative vector is exactly the sort of thing that computers could be very good at. My understanding is that there's a reason that flights currently are prescribed to well-established air corridors: there's no way human air traffic controllers could handle the volume of data if pilots were to select their own routes. It seems that this could do a lot at
  • The only thing these air traffic upgrades have done is make flying even more uncomfortable. They're deliberately vague on exactly what algorithm the AI would use and what "purpose of air traffic" it's supposed to control, because it's all about finding the least amount of oxygen humans need to survive, the coldest food which is still edible, how many sardines can fit in a steel tube, & how long humans can hold their bladder.

  • "Would you like to fly a plane?"
  • Mr. Clippy (Score:4, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Monday February 11, 2008 @06:29PM (#22384274)
    It looks like you are trying to land an airplane. Would you like some help?
  • They shouldn't be using unaccountable AI that doesn't have the human inhibitions (eg. guilt, shame, no promotion, incarceration) on making mistakes. There's plenty of capable human intelligence for air traffic control, in the air.

    Most actual piloting is already handled by AI, autopilots. The crew spends most of its time fighting boredom (and whatever _Airplane! [imdb.com]_ got right). Instead, they should participate in a distributed global air traffic control system. Let every plane report its GPS position to a satel
  • Advances? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by killmofasta (460565)
    See:
    http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/11/22/1634242 [slashdot.org]
    Its going to take 20 years and 20 billion dollars.

    Next generation intelligence? Jesus, if they had a DOS prompt, it would be a step up. The current computers were built in the 50s, and have increasing downtimes. ATCs float the boat ( the old manual system, that dates to pre-WWII ) at least once a week, and twice in one day in december. ( Busiest time )

    They have to phase in the new system, because they still do not know how reliably it all scales. On

There are running jobs. Why don't you go chase them?

Working...