Sunday, June 21, 2009

The next bonanza for IT

Ever since the Wrong Brothers caused the first air crash a century back, efforts have been on to reduce human error. One way to do that, it was believed, was to let computers do the flying. An old joke among pilots is that to fly a modern aeroplane all you need are a computer, a pilot and a dog. The computer’s job is to fly the plane. The pilot’s job is to feed the dog. The dog’s job is to bite the pilot if he tries to touch anything.

That may be an exaggeration, says The Economist, but not by much: most long-haul flights are handled by autopilots from just after take-off until right before landing. And if the airport has the necessary technology, even the landing can be handed to the computer.

Trains are going the same way, adds the article: driverless metro systems exist in several cities.

‘Engineers have long dreamed of fully automating the motor car. Cars are more complicated because they must navigate a road system that is much more extensive and much less standardised than a rail network. Roads are anarchic places compared with railways, which tend to be fenced off. That helps to stop people or animals getting on to the tracks. An automatic car would have to deal with all sorts of unexpected hazards, from accidents in other cars, to steering clear of emergency-service vehicles, to stopping when a football rolls out into the road—with a child, still hidden from view, in hot pursuit. ‘

I predict that this is the next big opportunity ( after the Y2K goldmine) for the Indian IT industry. The Economist describes a situation, in which a solitary child pursues a solitary football as anarchy. This betrays a terrible lack of undersatnding of the complexity involved. Look at this video of a railway crossing near Bengaluru. Do you think any programmer from any other country would be able to comprehend or imagine these conditions that a fleet of computerised cars and trains must be designed for? No sir, this is a job for the IT Supermen from India.

No comments: