What I wanted to show by bringing up this example is that in current airplane design, there are circumstances in which automation is known to fail (in this case, unreliable/defective sensors). In these circumstances, the systems are designed to give control back to the pilot. The rationale for this is quite clear.
Yes, like I said, it's to make the passengers feel good. Because as we have seen, the pilots depend on the same sensors that the autopilot does. Airliners aren't fighters, you don't fly by the seat of your pants. By the time your inner-ear-gyro tells you that there's a problem, you're already screwed. Which was precisely what happened.
How in the shit are pitot tubes still icing anyway? Why is heating the tube not a thing which works? Heating elements are not new technology. We should really be able to manage this by now.