Please note: a version of this article first appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of IMI Magazine and was written for a motor trade audience.
Strongly-worded manufacturer statements about
fitting only original equipment (OE) parts on vehicles
equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are common in America,
and now they’ve crossed the pond.
First, Honda asserted that non-OE
windscreens might cause ADAS malfunctions due to the front-facing camera not
being able to aim properly. Then, last summer,
Motors (GM) warned US dealers against using aftermarket or reconditioned
bumpers of all things.
To a certain extent, you can
understand why they’re so protective. A recent IIHS study of GM vehicles in 23 US
states found that models with auto-braking and forward-collision warning
systems had 43% fewer front-to-rear crashes. It also found that 64% fewer
injuries resulted from such collisions, compared to similar models without ADAS.
Closer to home, on 30 January
this year, Mazda’s parts and accessories sales manager, Dave Elphick, spoke at Auto
Windscreens’ Automotive Connecting Conference of only being able to guarantee
ADAS if vehicles had the same parts as when they left the factory.
Carlton, technical manager at National Windscreens, agrees that the
introduction of cameras and radar represents a massive change. “Until a few
years ago, we in the glazing industry didn’t really deal with vehicle
electrics, other than maybe a winder motor when repairing a smashed side
window,” he says.
“Last year we
served 30,000 ADAS customers and a third of our technicians are now
ADAS-qualified. It is still a small percentage of our overall work, but it is
growing fast and it won’t be long before all our technicians will need to be
“There are two
types of calibration: static and dynamic. Static requires a target board to be
accurately positioned at ‘x’ point in front of the camera. The diagnostic tool
asks the car if it can ‘see’ the target and, if so, make any necessary fine
adjustments within the vehicle software. This needs to be carried out in
workshop conditions with plenty of space, good level flooring and stable
calibration is more of a system check. Using a diagnostic tool, you place the
car into calibration mode and go through a drive cycle, where an internal tick
list is checked-off to complete the action. There are a small number of
self-testing cameras which carry out the dynamic calibration themselves – maybe
one day they’ll all be self-calibrating, but that’s a long way off.”
As to the VM
statements, Carlton says: “We counter these claims in two ways: firstly, we
only fit quality products – yes, there are inferior products out there but it
would be a false economy for us to use them; secondly, we work to the standards
of the VMs with the highest specifications and closest tolerances. We often
find we have better kit and more expertise than the dealers. In some cases, they’re actually the customer.”
He’s spot on about needing knowledge. As
Bosch points out: “The buyer of a base BMW 520SE can now opt for Driver
Assistance Plus, Driver Assistance, ACC with StopGo, Night Vision, Parking
Assistant or Parking Assistant Plus. Every combination of these systems will
have a different sensor configuration and require a specific calibration
There’s also the small matter of finding the
relevant sensor. For example, the adaptive
cruise control (ACC) radar sensor
on a Golf is a square device mounted below the grille. On a Passat, it’s behind
the badge, where Mercedes also like to hide it. What’s more, independent
garages are going to be seeing a lot more of these jobs, with JD Power’s 2018 UK Vehicle Dependability Study highlighting
multiple ADAS bugs in newer premium cars.
Neil Hilton, head of business development
at Hella, was on the Thatcham steering group which finalised the code of practice for glass replacement. “There would
be merit in having something similar for other repairs,” he suggests. “ADAS
is part of a natural progression towards fully autonomous vehicles. You see it
on virtually every new vehicle now, from the largest to the smallest, the
cheapest to the most expensive.
“Manufacturers are actively promoting the
benefits of these systems and Ford showed the way with its sharp marketing
campaign on how cameras and road sign recognition, along with speed-limiting
software, can help ensure you never get a speeding ticket.
“Systems like lane departure, autonomous
braking and blind-spot detection are increasingly fused together, so when you
recalibrate one camera or radar you have to check the others too. Even
something like changing a steering rack can affect the data line that acts as
the control point for all systems across the car.
“It’s nearly six years since we launched
our HGS tool and we pride ourselves on sharing information with the
aftermarket. Surprisingly, there can still be a tendency among general repair
workshops to think ‘this won’t affect us’, but ADAS is so widespread that our windscreen
customers are now expanding into the 360-view calibration and radar.
“Block Exemption means parts must be of a
reasonable standard and comparable quality. If a reset gives a satisfactory
result then the system is calibrated. What’s important is to promote reputable
garages – those who attend training and invest in the right equipment.”
Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham, has high praise for ADAS,
describing it as a life-saver. “The constant influx of new systems makes it a
fantastically interesting time to be involved in the industry, but we have to
plan for it from a repair perspective 5-6 years down the line,” he says.
the original Tesla Model 3 to where they are now – more cameras, radar, lidar,
ever more sophisticated sensors. Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) will be
mandatory, but Euro NCAP is already driving it. The slope just keeps getting
steeper in terms of complexity, and this means more potential for failures.
urge manufacturers to better support these technologies because there’s almost
an information vacuum. The guidance needs to be clearer, more available and
reasonable. Should you have to recalibrate after a minor scrape? The whole
industry needs to align – to agree a considered approach which keeps costs
under control while delivering safe repairs. We have a vibrant aftermarket in
the UK and manufacturers who behave sensibly will get a reputational benefit.”
But haven’t we already had this
argument – isn’t this what Right to Repair was all about? Some VMs apparently think
ADAS could be key to reopening the debate.