Following the March 1977 collision of two Boeing 747 aircrafts on the runway of the Los Rodeos airport in the Canary Islands, increasing safety on the airport surface during both regular and irregular weather conditions through the development of automated systems became a primary initiative. Over time, these systems have become more sophisticated, and it has been evident that with the support of reliable and effective technology, controllers can manage terminal airspace and ground movements with greater safety. Today, automated safety systems are viewed as a critical part of any air traffic control solution and are no longer the primary driver behind technological enhancements. As a result of significant technological innovations in the field of computing, communication, and consumer technologies, sophisticated air traffic management automation systems now allow aircraft operators to safely and efficiently reduce operating costs, improve predictability, and reduce disruption during off-nominal operations. This paper will explore the past airport automation development waves focused on safety enhancements; the current wave primarily driven by efficiency improvements; and the next wave, which should resume the focus on safety enhancements.