Learning engineering lessons from NTSB accident reports

I am fully aware that this probably means that I have too much time on my hands but, having read a few NTSB accident reports recently, I do find them to have considerable educational value in demonstrating how systems can go wrong in sometimes surprising ways. Take this one, for example. It contains a detailed description of how an autonomous vehicle tried to deal with a situation when its sensors were giving inconsistent information. Or this one, which contains a very detailed description of what went wrong to cause the collapse of a new pedestrian bridge in Florida last year. Many are concerned with aviation accidents. This report is an example.

I believe that a tremendous amount can be learned from these reports about expected and unexpected failure modes of complex systems, especially those where humans are part of the loop. The hope is of course that by understanding what went wrong,  these failures and consequent loss of life never happen again.

For reference, this is a list of recent reports while the @NTSB_Newsroom Twitter feed is a good way of keeping up to date.

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