It is far too early to say with any certainty whether or not algorithms were at fault in the two recent crashes of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. But it is not too early to begin reasoned speculation based on what is known to date.
Boeing’s prized new jet has had two crashes:
- The first killed 189 people in October when a Lion Air jet crashed into the Java Sea
- The second killed 157 on 10 March 2019 when an Ethiopean Airlines jet crashed in Ethiopia.
Indications are that the aircraft has similar erratic flight profiles. This and other information is leading many to assess that the automated anti-stall technology either contributed to or caused the crash.
The New York Times has published a report capturing many of the dangers of over automation in aviation (review here). This has been a cause of concern for years.
Another key event we in the technology community should understand: The 2015 Seville Airbus A400M Crash. It was a poor software load that caused algorithms to fail in that crash, resulting in the death of 4 of the 6 crew on board.
It is a sad fact that we have now seen death by bad algorithm.