I have to ask a light-hearted question: Why does the Planet Express ship need a pilot? (or for that matter, keys...)

In the episode where the ship falls in love with Bender, we see that she is clearly an intelligent and relatively independent machine.

So why does she need a pilot? Why did Prof. Farnsworth hire a pilot for her? Why does she need keys if she can identify the people who are supposed to "fly" her?

In the robot rebellion episode we see that pretty much everything is an intelligent robot, so almost all ships are intelligent. Why do any of them require pilots or drivers?

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    It's primarily a comedy show, with only a little continuity between episodes... – evilsoup May 11 '13 at 1:13
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    Given the untrustworthy nature of robots in the Futurama world, it makes sense people might still pilot vessels rather than depend on robots to be as reliable as they are expected to be. – Thaddeus Howze May 11 '13 at 2:00
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    Unions. The answer is "unions". – John O May 11 '13 at 3:03
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    After the debacle with HAL 5000, pilots are standard issue. – Major Stackings May 11 '13 at 4:42
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    I would say you've found a plot hole here. Send Matt Groening a letter. – AJFaraday Jul 31 '15 at 9:12

Probably for the same reason airplanes today still have pilots:

People, as a general rule, don't trust machines.

Pilots are likely still around to assuage the anxiety people might have about trusting their lives (or livelihoods) to a machine, even if in actuality the machine is doing all the actual piloting.

Moreover, having a pilot around can be useful in situations where the ship might encounter novel situations to which an automated system cannot be trusted to reliably adapt in a reasonable amount of time.

Edit: To wit: They don't need a pilot, but people expect them to have one, so they do.

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  • O.k. this works for me. Thanks! – SteveED May 21 '13 at 2:06
  • There's a reason why the pilot can be someone without depth perception. – trlkly Dec 15 '14 at 5:43

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