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Mykel Kochenderfer: AI and safety-critical systems

Advances in artificial intelligence are leading to greater autonomy and improved safety in systems ranging from air traffic control to automated driving.

A photo collage of six airplanes flying in a clear blue sky and leaving white exhaust trails behind them

Building systems that meet the exceptionally high level of safety expected of commercial air transport is challenging. | iStock/Helin Loik-Tomson

Artificial intelligence can help us design safety-critical systems for aircraft and other vehicles that are more robust to the many sources of uncertainty in the real world, says aerospace professor Mykel Kochenderfer.

Building systems that meet the exceptionally high level of safety expected of commercial air transport is challenging, but Kochenderfer says that the key is in modeling the likelihood of the full spectrum of outcomes and planning accordingly. Validating the safety of these systems is also difficult, often requiring billions of simulations. He tells Stanford Engineering’s The Future of Everything how AI, empowered by algorithms such as “dynamic programming,” can make autonomous systems safer.