The US Navy is reverting to traditional input methods following a nautical collision that saw 10 sailors lose their lives.
The incident has prompted a return to knobs and dials from touchscreen technology that wasn't very popular among officers in any case.
The crash took place in 2017 when the U.S.S John S McCain veered into the path of an oil tanker after sailors lost control of the vessel. The mishap resulted in 10 deaths, while 58 more persons were injured.
An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the sailors weren't competent enough to control the ship due to a lack of proper training and documentation. As a result, it has been decided that the Navy will be ditching the "integrated bridge and navigation systems" (IBNS) designed by Northrop-Grumman in favor of more traditional methods.
The IBNS consists of two touchscreen monitors that control several functions. While it should have made controlling the ship easier, it was actually too complex and made it so that a sailor thought he was controlling the entire throttle when he was only controlling one side. The mistake led to the ship in question making a sharp turn that put it directly in the path of the oil 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,” the report stemming from the investigation states.
As it turns out, no one really knew how to use the systems and as a result, were unable to perform requisite maneuvers quickly. The Navy has decided that to remove all systems from all the destroyers they were installed in.
"When we started getting the feedback from the fleet from the Comprehensive Review effort… it was really eye-opening," Navy Read Admiral Bill Galinis said (via USNI News). "And it goes into the, in my mind, ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ category. We really made the helm control system, specifically on the 51 class [destroyers], just overly complex, with the touch screens under glass and all this kind of stuff. We got away from the physical throttles, and that was probably the number-one feedback from the fleet - they said, just give us the throttles that we can use."
It's quite sad that it had to come to sailors losing their lives. But it's also great that the Navy has decided to return to much safer methods in an attempt to prevent such an incident from ever reoccurring.