Automation failures have been the cause widely reported disasters, such as the crash of Air France Flight 447 in 2009, as well as much more minor incidents in just about every workplace that uses automation.
In the case of the Air France flight, the focus was placed on deficiencies in the automated system. Although automation does help in avoiding human error in completing tasks, people still are needed to monitor how well the automated system is operating.
Monitoring of systems often requires multitasking: There usually is more than a single function to monitor, and when one function fails, it likely leads to subsequent failures, which can occur in rapid succession. Operators can experience something known as “cognitive lock-up” if they are lacking in ability or training in working memory and sustained attention.