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The US Navy is replacing touchscreen controls with mechanical versions on its destroyers

By midian182 · 16 replies
Aug 12, 2019 at 9:05 AM
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  1. In August 2017, the USS John S. McCain crashed into the Alnic MC, a Liberian oil tanker, off the coast of Singapore. According to the National Transportation Safety Board’s accident report into the incident, the complex touchscreen interface, a lack of proper training and documentation, and tired sailors were all contributing factors in the collision.

    The complexity of the touchscreen meant one sailor thought he was controlling the ship’s entire throttle when he only had control of one side. This mistake caused the warship to turn into the path of the tanker.

    “Their misunderstandings expressed during the post-accident interviews and the misunderstandings of other crewmembers who were permanently assigned to the John S McCain point to a more fundamental issue with the qualification process and training with the IBNS (integrated bridge and navigation system),” concluded the report.

    All DDG-51 class (Arleigh Burke) ships will see their IBNS switched out for mechanical controls, starting with the USS Ramage in the summer of 2020. The first new destroyer to come with physical throttles instead of touchscreens will be the USS Ted Stevens.

    Speaking about touchscreen controls on navy vessels, Rear Admiral Bill Galinis, the Program Executive Officer for Ships, described them as being in the “‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ category.” He added that the systems were over-complex, and there should be "bridge commonality" to make it easier for sailors who transfer from other ships.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,503   +3,890

    The higher tech controls are great as a secondary control but the old mechanical controls tend to be a lot more reliable, particularly on vehicles that subject to saltwater air and of course EMP's .....
    psycros, lexster and Theinsanegamer like this.
  3. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,219   +1,657

    The "bridge commonality" might have been part of the reason they were using touch screens. It is a lot easier to do a software update than to yank out a bunch of panels and install new ones.

    However, I still would not fully trust using touch screens for a battle ship (as much as I like STNG.) I have had numerous times when a touch screen did not recognize my touch. This was most likely because my skin was not conducting properly.
  4. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 4,118   +2,406

    To me, it sounds like they crew operating the touchscreen either a.) did not have enough training -
    or b.) Even with training they failed to understand how to use them.

    So if you bring back the mechanical controls and you give control of only one side of the ship's throttle to only one crewman, then the possibility for this kind of accident to happen again is still prevalent.
    mbrowne5061 likes this.
  5. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 1,570   +1,787

    Physical controls provide tactile feedback, and for many people it is much easier to learn and remember such controls then a touchscreen, where "fire missile" and "open bathroom door" produce the same (lack of) feedback. Same reason no matter how great they get, touchpads cant produce the same motion of mice, you lack the physical feedback to adjust your hand to.

    Physical, manual backup controls should be mandatory on ships like this, or indeed any vehicle. Touchscreens are WAY too finicky for vehicle control.
    psycros and Capaill like this.
  6. R00sT3R

    R00sT3R TS Guru Posts: 166   +354

    ...I have visions of the bridge now being retro-fitted to look like the analogue, hack proof no network, one from Battlestar Galactica.
    psycros and Aus spot like this.
  7. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 4,118   +2,406

    Giving them physical controls still does not discount the possibility of a single crew member being in charge of half of the ship's throttle - which is what happened with the touch screen. I don't care how you spin it, giving a single crew member charge of half of the ship's propulsion is a recipe for disaster.
  8. yRaz

    yRaz Nigerian Prince Posts: 2,932   +2,251

    Yes, but it reduces it significantly. Are you trying to say we shouldn't get ride of touch screens because the possibility still isn't zero? People smarter than us and research backed by billions of dollars went into this decision. I'm fairly certain a commenter on an internet forum doesn't know better than the US Navy
    psycros likes this.
  9. netman

    netman TS Evangelist Posts: 344   +105

    Another excuse for Pentagon to ask for more US taxpayer money!!!
  10. Milton Sanchez

    Milton Sanchez TS Rookie

    There is something special to the sense of touch for which our brains are hardwired.
    psycros likes this.
  11. Dennis Morrison

    Dennis Morrison TS Rookie

    The car companies would save tons of money by replacing mechanical steering wheels with touch screen controls. I wonder why they don't.
    psycros and Capaill like this.
  12. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 4,118   +2,406

    No, I am not. However, I'll repeat, again, what I said. If you are going to give a manual control, or any control, to a crew member that is intended to control the ship's propulsion, and that control only controls half of the propulsion system - such as what was cited in this article and in the report from the investigation of this incident as the cause of the accident - there is still room for error. It takes two people to make the ship go in a straight line - think a caterpillar tread and one moving faster than the other - that makes the caterpillar turn.

    It's common sense.

    As to your "I am sure the military investigated" comment, while that may be true, the military is relatively well-known for doing stupid stuff - like paying $18,000 for a toilet seat.
  13. yRaz

    yRaz Nigerian Prince Posts: 2,932   +2,251

    Just out of curiosity, what do you suggest we do?
  14. toooooot

    toooooot TS Evangelist Posts: 877   +425

    Hard controls are better for controlling things, touch is better for Browsing internet. I wonder which one they were doing when they collided...

    Stop trying to bring movies about future to the present by removing hard controls. I feel like Elon's spaceship is gonna be next. They made very cool touchscreen in it, but I doubt it ll be better than a real panel with real buttons and controller.
    psycros likes this.
  15. lexster

    lexster TS Guru Posts: 531   +261

    There's something to be said about technological advancements. However, I have to agree with Admiral Galinis, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. To that I wish to add, if it's not broken don't fix it. If it works well, let it.
    psycros likes this.
  16. Danny101

    Danny101 TS Guru Posts: 817   +324

    Sometimes, analog is better. Keep it simple, stupid. Digital isn't all it's cracked up to be. Actually, analog is much more fault tolerant.
    lexster and psycros like this.
  17. Capaill

    Capaill TS Evangelist Posts: 917   +505

    Indeed. To go a step further, I have been watching the recent trend of moving all controls to the central touch screen in a car and the manufacturers have realised that some controls should not be moved - controls such as the air conditioning rarely work well on a screen and are often too distracting for the driver to try to use, especially when the controls don't respond. It's not a perfect analogy to the ship but just an example of why it's not always wise to move all controls to a touch screen.
    psycros likes this.

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