Driverless cars raise big concerns for Japanese supplier image

The Japanese company that invented electric power steering is now worried due to the invention of driverless cars.

Back in the mid 80s, Jtekt Corp. surpassed the traditional hydraulic technology, becoming one of the largest suppliers for Toyota Motor Corp. and other carmakers. At the moment, the company has produced over 100 million of the units and is responsible for a quarter of the global market.

The president of the Japanese company, Tetsuo Agata, has expressed concerns over the fact that if the brand does not create a product for autonomous cars, it might cater to no clients anymore. Agata said in an interview that “We’re going to lose the foundation of our business. We’re going to go under if we fail to catch up. I have a strong sense of crisis.”

With new technologies transforming the auto industry, steering has to adapt in order to survive through changes.

Toyota and Nissan Motor Co. are looking to compete with more recent entrants on the car market like Tesla Motors Inc., Google Inc. And Uber Technologies Inc.

With Google and Uber trying to put autonomous cars on public roads as soon as possible, Toyota and Nissan are interested in developing hands-free driving starting 2016.

Goro Tanamachi, an analyst for IHS Automotive stated that “A lot of parts suppliers will be affected by the move to autonomous driving.”

Agata considers that steer-by-wire systems where a software sends a signal to the electric motor in order to move the wheels is going to be the next “it” thing for driverless cars. And because Jtekt is not in the software development business, it may fall behind. He emphasized that “What we can’t miss or lose is control software. If we lose here, we can’t continue.”

The company is now focused on research with its team being sent to universities and laboratories and is taking into account acquiring firms that handle new technology.