Autonomous vehicles: The Race to Safety. A case study of High Reliability Theory in autonomous trucks and busses
Abstract: The development of autonomous vehicles is still in an early stage, but incumbent manufacturers are already under pressure. They are asked to develop safe products while facing great market pressure and internal changes. This research is carried out to understand how incumbent manufacturers of commercial vehicles organize internally to develop safe and reliable autonomous vehicles (AV). By using an in-depth and context-rich single-case study, the authors look at one firm's organizational intricacies through the lens of High Reliability Theory (HRT). Applying an emergent framework of HRT, the authors explore how HRT principles can be applied to enhance the safe development of AV. The results indicate that this firm indeed is moving into a high-risk environment and that the organizational changes that follow can be framed within the spectrum of HRT. The authors also find that the role of managers is transforming to enable the change, and with that the idea of leadership. By making this connection, the authors provide guidance for practitioners that today are seeking efficient ways to cope with new posing risks stemming from technological advancements. Moreover, this paper adds to a greater pool of HRT research by 1) providing a new setting to the research field and 2) putting more emphasis on the manager's role in developing high-reliability systems by linking HRT to servant leadership.
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