Self-Driving Cars Will Need Airplane-Like Mandatory Inspections, Economist Insists

Especially if automakers are going to be the ones liable for any problems.

byWill Sabel Courtney| PUBLISHED Aug 3, 2016 8:50 PM
Self-Driving Cars Will Need Airplane-Like Mandatory Inspections, Economist Insists

If automakers are going to be on the hook for any damage and destruction caused by the self-driving cars filling up the roads of tomorrow, carmakers will need to demand those autonomous vehicles are regularly inspected in much the same way the aviation industry regularly checks out its airplanes, the chief economist of the National Automobile Dealers Association declared this week.

Speaking to the assembled crowd of (presumably rather bored) automotive industry workers at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars on Tuesday, NADA economist Steven Szakaly said it is all but guaranteed consumers will misuse autonomous technology, so the onus must be on carmakers to make sure self-driving vehicles are working correctly.

"You cannot allow those systems to fail,” Szakaly said, according to Automotive News. "And if you have those systems fail, or you don’t properly maintain those systems and that leads to failure, that liability is on those manufacturers."

The economist stressed that regular inspections would be even more important for autonomous vehicles than for traditional ones, as a system failure on a self-driving car would, in his mind, be more likely to directly affect other vehicles on the road than something going wrong on on an old-fashioned automobile.

"There’s a 100 percent certainty that if we don’t have mandated service intervals someone’s system is not going to be properly maintained, and there’s a 100 percent certainty that will end catastrophically in some way,” he said.

With the first fully-autonomous vehicles expected to hit roads in the early years of the next decade, car companies have already begun discussing whether they will accept responsibility for accidents caused by their self-driving cars. So far, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and Google have all said they would accept liability for their computer-guided automobiles.