Software and electronics enthusiasts have long predicted the day when airliners will fly themselves from Runway A to Runway B without any human pilots screwing things up. When the standard airplane was going from four crewmembers (pilot, pilot, flight engineer, navigator) to two (just the pilots), the joke was that one day it would be a single pilot and a dog. The pilot’s job was to feed the dog and the dog’s job was to bite the pilot if he touched anything.
The quest to build an automated airliner has been significantly set back by the engine failure on the Airbus A380. Here’s an interview with one of the pilots, which makes it clear that the software, left to itself, was not able to pick the serious problems out of the crowd of warning messages, nor was it able to make reasonable estimates of landing capability.
This was the newest and most advanced airplane from the company with the most advanced software and most sophisticated automation philosophy. Admittedly the engineers and programmers had to deal with regulatory authorities and designed the system with the knowledge that human pilots would be up front, but anyone wishing to argue against fully automated airliners need only point to this incident.