Engineering with uncertainty: Monitoring air bag performance

Science and Engineering Ethics 14 (2):201-218 (2008)
Abstract
Modern engineering is complicated by an enormous number of uncertainties. Engineers know a great deal about the material world and how it works. But due to the inherent limits of testing and the complexities of the world outside the lab, engineers will never be able to fully predict how their creations will behave. One way the uncertainties of engineering can be dealt with is by actively monitoring technologies once they have left the development and production stage. This article uses an episode in the history of automobile air bags as an example of engineers who had the foresight and initiative to carefully track the technology on the road to discover problems as early as possible. Not only can monitoring help engineers identify problems that surface in the field, it can also assist them in their efforts to mobilize resources to resolve problem.
Keywords Engineering  Uncertainty  Monitoring  Risk  Social experiment
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