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Captain Sullenberger on Driver Responsibility and Autonomous Cars – Forbes Interview

Wisdom from Captain Sullenberger on Our Responsibility as Drivers and the Safety of Autonomous Cars

Great podcast with Captain Sullenberger on the Forbes Interview.

From the podcast, he has some great advice for those of us tempted to use our smartphones when driving. He leans very heavily on personal and group accountability and the values of discipline and integrity.
Ladies and Gentlemen:

This is your captain speaking. When you travel in an airplane you are in good hands and you are required to have your personal electronic devices in such a way that they will not affect the airplane during certain phases of flight.

Let me remind you that when you drive your car to and from the airport or anywhere else for that matter, if you choose to use your personal electronic devices while you are the driver, you’re putting your own amusement, your own curiosity, your own personal needs ahead of the welfare of those all around you.

That is a stupid and selfish thing to do.

You know we have a lot of threats in our lives, whether it is a concern about terrorism or falling in the bathtub, but if you really understand relative risks, if you really understand safety, you’ll know that for each of us no matter what our lives are like, the one most important choice that we could make that would do the most good that would save the most lives, is having the discipline and having integrity to never use our phone when driving.

You owe it to those around you.


I think I just signed up a pledge or blood oath. Preventing an accident, fighting complacency, and “just this one time”, is incredibly hard, but the right thing to do. You can feel the depth of this seriousness and gravity in his voice. Sully’s thoughts about autonomous cars, the importance of technological assist rather than full automation replacement, and the above Captain’s announcement are heard at 56:30 of the podcast.

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Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among people age one to thirty-four and the third leading cause of death among forty-five to fifty-four year olds. The most common cause of unintentional injuries is due to motor vehicle accidents. Increasingly these accidents are due to people texting.

To decrease your risk, it is clear that as drivers we need to be mindful about our responsibilities and actions.

To decrease risk further, check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to determine vehicle ratings on safety to see how your car performs. IIHS is an independent nonprofit organization formed by the insurance industry and is dedicated to reducing death, injuries, and property damage from highway accidents.

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The Car You Drive Doesn’t Matter Until it Does

In 2001, that became very clear to me the importance of engineering:

One month before my wedding, while driving to meet our pastor, our car spun out of control on the busiest Los Angeles freeway after hitting an oil spill. The car slammed into the hillside and flipped onto the driver’s door. The vehicle was totaled and traffic was backed up for miles as emergency vehicles and personnel rushed to the scene.

Although my fiancée’s father’s car, his pride and joy, was a complete loss, it did during those critical seconds perform as it was designed. Detecting imminent impact, the seat belt tighteners activated, securing my fiancée and me. As parts of the car crumpled and absorbed the tremendous force of a sixty-mile-an-hour car stopping in a matter of a few yards, the steel cage held firm, protecting us from harm.

To this day I am convinced that had we been in another vehicle, one not optimally designed for safety, we could have been seriously injured or killed. Instead, my fiancée and I walked away, very much shaken, in shock, and grateful. Our wedding one month later was even more meaningful.

Forbes Interview Podcast has great points from Sullenburger about how to create teams on the fly, leadership, and the importance of finding passion and purpose in life and being a lifelong learner! His role in improving the cockpit culture  to improve communications for the common purpose of the ultrasafe transportation across the industry.


Why Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger Would Have Been a Great TPMG doctor

Can Sully Transform the World of Self-Driving Cars? – The Drive interviews Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger about autonomous cars, driver distraction and a certain Hudson River water landing.

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