Like all new technologies, autonomous cars are under constant scrutiny. Companies that make them are beginning to understand this and learning to accept the risks.
Parts makers, however, have not.
For those that make the parts that go in the autonomous cars, now is the time to prepare — protect your brand, address product liability questions and start thinking about the financial implications of your parts being in autonomous vehicles.
This year's fatal crash in Arizona involving a pedestrian and a self-driving Uber was believed to have been the first but certainly won't be the last death attributed to an autonomous car, and the implications for parts makers have yet to be determined.
For instance, while the preliminary investigation determined that Uber had turned off some of the self-driving technology, a sensor manufacturer could still find itself in the spotlight and in legal trouble, similar to what happened to Japan's Takata Corp. after a number of fatalities were linked to its airbags.
Few, if any, car parts makers are prepared for the kind of negative media onslaught that hit Takata, which ultimately filed for bankruptcy last year. That's because few small parts suppliers have ever faced the kind of negative attention that comes with headline-making accidents.
Self-driving technology will likely change that.
Considering the inevitability of accidents involving autonomous cars, all parts makers should create crisis management plans to prepare for potential fallout. These plans are a routine part of business at large high-profile corporations elsewhere in the transportation sector, such as auto manufacturers and airlines, but are less common at smaller supplier companies.