"...technology-wise, we don’t see a hurdle."

By Evie Carrick
June 19, 2019
Michel Euler/AP/Shutterstock

Self-driving cars are no longer a completely foreign concept, but that doesn’t mean people are less likely to be surprised — and potentially concerned — by the fact that the technology needed to fly passenger airplanes without pilots already exists and could be the future of air travel.

Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer said in a briefing before this week’s Paris Air Show that Airbus already has the technology to fly autonomous airplanes, but that the company is working on winning over travelers and lawmakers, many of whom are concerned about the idea of flying without a pilot.

“This is not a matter of technology — it’s a matter of interaction with the regulators, the perception in the traveling public,” Scherer told the Associated Press on Monday. “When can we introduce it in large commercial aircraft? That is a matter we are discussing with regulators and customers, but technology-wise, we don’t see a hurdle.”

According to the AP, several manufacturers at the Paris Air Show are revealing planes that fly unmanned, although many are being developed for military purposes. However, the thought of pilotless passenger airplanes brings up safety concerns for many travelers — especially after the two Boeing 373 Max crashes that were potentially caused by an automated system and the autonomous Uber car that killed a pedestrian in March 2018.

In regard to the Boeing 373 Max crashes, Scherer said that they “highlighted and underlined the need for absolute, uncompromising safety in this industry, whether from Airbus, Boeing or any other plane.”

In addition to announcing their pilotless airplane technology, Scherer revealed in the interview that by 2035 Airbus also hopes to sell hybrid or electric passenger jets, predicting that eventually the air travel industry will stop creating emissions entirely.

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