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D. A Program that Extends Aircraft Control to Increase Safety

Narrator:This is Science Today. Computer scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, are deep in the predicament of what's really safer, a fallible human or a fallible machine? After September 11th, Professor Edward Lee began working on a technology called "soft walls" that extends aircraft control in order to reduce human fallibility and increase safety.

Lee: Most of the aircraft that are designed today use a technique called fly-by-wire, which means that the pilot does not directly mechanically or hydraulically have any control over the surfaces of the aircraft that control where the aircraft goes. So for example, there's no mechanical linkage between the cockpit and the flaps on the wings.

Narrator: With "soft walls," the computer extends its authority to override a pilot's decision by prohibiting planes to enter virtual no-fly zones around potential targets. The concept has caused some controversy.

Lee: I believe, however, that this solution is probably the best one.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.