Unmanned vehicles and the Philly Duck Boat accident

By now most people have heard about the Philly Duck Boat accident that happened yesterday. One of the tour boats broke down in the water, and while awaiting help was hit by an unmanned barge that was being pulled by a remote controlled tug boat. The result of the collision was capsizing and sinking of the tour boat, causing 37 tourists to be thrown into the water -- two of which have not yet been found almost a day later.

What comes to my mind is the question of how different the situation would have gone if either the barge or tug boat were actually manned by a human being. In reports after the accident the people on-board spoke of how they couldn't understand why the barge didn't stop, why they didn't respond to their screams to stop. Of course having the barge being pulled remotely by a tugboat saves an actual person from having to be out on the water, but an off-site controller can’t really see a boat in distress full of tourists on the water.

I'm not placing blame on anyone, just making the observation that while more and more jobs become automated or remote controlled, there is something to be said for having a human being with actual ears and eyes to regulate. Even if machines cost less money, or are in some instances more efficient, perhaps human workers could deter instances like these.

Still prayerful that by some miracle the two missing individuals are found safely.


  1. There a lot to be said about the human element. I hope we don't lose that

  2. It's a sad story. I didn't know the details, but it sounds like the whole situation could have easily been avoided.

    My mom's good friend and her daughter were killed in Baltimore in a similar event...except it was caused by a freak storm. Unavoidable.

  3. @CC definitely, I hope we never lose that completely.

    @SilverNeurotic - it's just so sad. Seems like it could have been avoided. You never think something like that could happen on a simple tour.


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