Would computers do a better job of air traffic control?

Seems like keeping track of that many planes and conditions is a daunting job for any human to do. What is it they bring to the job that a computer couldn’t do?

I imagine more and more air traffic control duties will be taken over my computers in the coming decades. But the cost of replacing all the ATC equipment in the nation is going to cost an awful lot of money. Oh, and that is assuming we have computers that can make rapid decisions in ever changing conditions and especially in emergencies.

Human beings handle the unexpected better than computers do, computers handle the routine and predictable better.

Air traffic control (at present) deals with human beings guiding large objects through the sky. When something unexpected happens - mechanical issues, large flock of birds goes by, whatever - humans will be able to change plans and cope with the situation better than our current machines.

Computers ARE used for air traffic control. In fact, one of the biggest markets for new graph search algorithms and heuristics is for air traffic control.

I think the people are just there to provide overrides in emergency situations.

What are some examples of the kind of decisions they’ll have to make in these circumstances, aside from “reroute this plane there, make that plane circle for a while, lower this altitude”, etc.?

I mean, why couldn’t an algorithm be pre-programmed to deal with diversions like that?

Listen to this, the recordings from USAir 1549 - the flight that landed in the Hudson.

The controller calls another airport (Teterboro), gets clearance, & vectors the plane towards their runway. Once it goes down, he’s heard contacting the appropriate, off-airport emergency services & giving them landmarks on where to look. He gives them the Intrepid as a landmark. A computer might say “46th St”, if you’re lucky. From the air, I only have a vague idea where 46th St is; however, I know exactly where I’m going if you tell me the Intrepid - try this with a map program (w/ labels off) & I bet you’ll get the same results.

They already do.

Well, that Canadian one looks real good if only properly equipped airliners are in the system.

I would like to see how they plan to handle popup traffic, emergency ‘right now’ diversions, pilot refusal to comply. etc. ( That last one is going to be hard to do with a computer. ) Yes the pilot can do that.

What about military aircraft that do not use any fixed routing?

"Sir, I can not stand by at Mach 3. "

Right now, I see the biggest problem in the US is $$$$

Who is going to pay for all the aircraft equipment upgrades?

Humans fail sometimes, so do computers.

Human monitoring but not doing & all of a sudden the computer throws up it’s hands & screams, “He won’t do what I say, I’m gonna sulk.” Not many people can be that tuned in after sitting for an hour just watching.

I think it will come but the $$$$, number of flights and the congestion are all worlds apart from what is normal in Canada.

I think we will be talking to people for a long time.

I wonder how fast I can text during an emergency?

For obvious reasons, the airline industry is quite risk-averse, also new tech can take many years to be approved.
And I think this is more of the reason for why humans still make most of the decisions (though probably assisted by intelligent software) than a full-automated system being necessarily inferior.

And at least, in the US it’s unlikely to jump between languages and anywhere the pilots’ work language is English. Miss Google Maps pops English in the middle of Spanish, Spanish in the middle of Italian…