Trade tips: advanced driver assistance system repairs

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, General 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.

Alistair 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 ADAS-qualified.

“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 lighting.

“Dynamic 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 routine.”

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.”

Richard 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.

“Compare 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.

“We 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.

Stagecoach unveils UK’s first full-sized driverless bus

One of the UK’s leading transport operators, Stagecoach, is testing a full-sized autonomous bus at a depot in Manchester.

Working in partnership with vehicle manufacturer Alexander Dennis and technology company Fusion Processing, the first public demonstration was held on Monday 18 March.

Stagecoach chief executive, Martin Griffiths, said: “This is an exciting project to trial autonomous technology on a full-sized bus for the first time in the UK. 

“Our employees are the beating heart of our business and I believe that will remain the case, but the world is changing fast, particularly where new technology is involved.”

Stagecoach operates over 8,000 vehicles and employs 18,000 people in the UK.

Jim Hutchinson, CEO of Fusion Processing, added: “Our CAVstar sensor and control system has now been successfully applied to vehicles ranging in size from two-seater electric vehicles right up to a 43-seat bus.

“Our advanced driver-assistance systems already offer improved operational safety for buses and HGVs, and we anticipate further new ADAS products as spin offs from the autonomous vehicle (AV) bus project.”

The driverless dilemma: touchstone or red herring?

Much of the debate about autonomous vehicles (AVs) has focused on the driverless dilemma – who to save, or kill, in no-win crash situations.

This subject is often explored via a thought experiment called The Trolley Problem, which imagines a runaway train and five people tied to the track. If you intervene by pulling a lever, the train will switch to a track with just one person.

Numerous studies, notably The Moral Machine, suggest broad agreement that: 1) humans should be saved over animals; 2) the lives of many should outweigh the few; and 3) the young should have precedence over the old.

However, in this article for Robotics Business Review, Julian De Frietas, of the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and Sam Anthony, of Perceptive Automata (a company specialising in human behaviour in robotic systems), question the merit of applying such thinking to driverless cars.

“There are two problems with the trolley dilemma – first of all, it’s a distraction to the work that is being done on making AVs safer, and second, it has this built-in assumption that AVs can see the world perfectly,” says Anthony.

Initially this seems cavalier, an affront to the mainstream view that the driverless dilemma is vital to the debate. It is certainly an issue that cuts through with the public.

De Frietas goes on to assert that such dilemmas – situations where you have the time to make a considered decision as to who to kill but can’t use that time to avert it – are rare.

A better approach, he argues, is aiming to avoid harm: “That means that if most of what you’re doing on the road is just avoiding more mundane things, then optimizing to that goal will cover you.”

There’s a lot to digest there, particularly considering the infamous comments reportedly made by a Mercedes-Benz executive at the 2016 Paris Motor Show about saving the driver and passengers over pedestrians.

On a personal note, I’ve been driving for 25 years and have only found myself in something resembling a trolley dilemma once. A car pulled out in front me – pedestrians left, solid traffic right. I almost managed to stop but went into the side of the car that pulled out. We all walked away but, believe me, one trolley dilemma in a lifetime is more than enough.

In the same situation, what will a driverless car’s programming tell it to do? Will this vary across different makes and models? Should vehicle owners have any control over the settings?

Perhaps Anthony and De Frietas deserve credit for scrutinising the driverless dilemma, but their stance only reaffirms my view that it should be the touchstone for all autonomous vehicle development.

Aurrigo and Blind Veterans UK join forces for world first driverless test

Coventry-based autonomous vehicle specialist Aurrigo has partnered with Blind Veterans UK for what it says is the world’s first real-world driverless trial involving disabled people.

As outlined in the University of Michigan’s teach-out, self-driving cars have huge potential to help the blind community.

Starting in April 2019, a six-month programme of testing will explore how they can deliver improved mobility and independence.

An Aurrigo four-seater pod has been specially adapted with the needs of vision-impaired people in mind. For example, with improved lighting, prominent colours on grab rails and voice activated controls.

It will travel at a maximum 15mph around the charity’s training and rehabilitation centre in Ovingdean, near Brighton.

“Having feedback from Blind Veterans UK and their members taking part will be a massive boost in improving our pods and making them more user-friendly for people with disabilities,” said Miles Garner, sales and marketing director at Aurrigo.

Major General Nick Caplin CB, chief executive of Blind Veterans UK, added: “So many of the blind veterans we support say that not being able to drive is one of the most significant things that hits you when you lose your sight. It’s another way of losing independence and can make people feel more isolated.

“Anything we can do to assist and feedback on this new technology will hopefully benefit the lives of our veterans and the wider disabled community in the years to come.” 

Aurrigo has already hit the headlines this year for its impressive work with Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) using light projections to communicate the intentions of self-driving vehicles – for example, stopping or turning left or right.

Aurrigo and Jaguar Land Rover light projection test

“The trials are about understanding how much information a self-driving vehicle should share with a pedestrian to gain their trust,” said Pete Bennett, future mobility research manager at JLR.

“This pioneering research is forming the basis of ongoing development into how self-driving cars will interact with people in the future.”

Must-see: Waymo’s driverless police stop

Waymo, the company which began life as Google’s self-driving car project back in 2009, has posted a 16-second video of perhaps the most impressive driverless feat to date.

The signal lights on a busy US crossroads are out, so a policeman is stood in the middle of the junction directing traffic – illustrated by the yellow box in the graphic.

The Waymo driverless car stops and waits for the officer to wave it across – see the speeded-up film in the bottom right.

Waymo self-driving car navigates a police controlled intersection

Adding to its reputation as the world leader in autonomous vehicles, in October 2018 Waymo revealed that its self-driving cars have already driven over 10 million miles on public roads.

Driverless car laws and insurance

The Law Commission of England and Wales is currently undertaking a far-reaching review of the legal framework for driverless cars… and insurers are keen to contribute.

The deadline for submissions to the preliminary consultation paper passed last week and AXA Insurance has highlighted what it hopes will be key themes:

1) Access to data and a transparent framework for effective data governance is fundamental for establishing liability and accurate risk modelling.

2) The legal and regulatory framework must clearly define the responsibilities of the users of autonomous vehicles (AVs) and any changes to the current road safety regime.

3) Consumers must be educated on their responsibilities, how the equipment should be used and the regulations attached to them.

Noting the Government’s recent announcement on the advanced trials for self-driving vehicles, David Williams, managing director of underwriting and technical services at AXA, said: “We are only in February but the world of driverless has started 2019 at a blistering pace.

“It might not sound as exciting as trials and tech, but as driverless cars are rapidly becoming a reality, it is right now that we need think about the legal aspects of this technology. The consultation had 46 detailed questions on areas ranging from the responsibilities of a human user to the need for data retention.”

In its submission, the International Underwriting Association (IUA), which represents many of the world’s largest insurance companies, argued that accident data should be automatically retained.

Chris Jones, IUA director of legal and market services, said: “The technology surrounding driverless cars is developing rapidly. It is essential, therefore, that an effective framework is established governing their operation. Insurers have a vital role to play in this process.

“In order for liability to be established, vehicle data must be recorded and made available. This will include, for example, the status of the automated system, whether engaged or disengaged, the speed of the vehicle and any camera footage from the time of the accident.

“As information expands and usage grows, we are likely to see potential vulnerabilities highlighted and new risk areas emerge. We anticipate that the technology will be capable of self-reporting system errors, defects and other issues affecting road worthiness.”

In a sign of things to come, Bloomberg reports that entrepreneur Dan Peate has launched Avinew, with $5m in seed funding, offering an insurance product which monitors drivers’ use of autonomous features in cars made by Tesla, Nissan, Ford and Cadillac.

Discounts will be determined based on how the features are used, after the customer has given permission for their driving data to be accessed.

This seems a logical next step in telematics or ‘black box’ insurance, which tracks the way you drive and links it to the amount you pay.

In terms of what happens in the event of an accident, a story in the Daily Express explained how a fraudulent claim worth £6,000 was prevented using telematics.

A Renault Clio driver facing a whiplash claim was cleared by data showing that the incident occurred at under 5mph. Martyne Miller, associate director of Coverbox said: “The data was able to successfully refute a substantial claim, saving both the motorist and the insurer money.”

Once cars are fully autonomous, Rodney Parker, associate professor of operations management at Indiana University, predicts that “liability is likely to migrate from the individual to the manufacturer and the licensers of the software that drives the AV.”

There’s also the possibility that motorists could be encouraged out of driving via the prohibitive cost of insurance.

The Law Commission was asked to look at the legal framework for driverless cars by the UK’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), a joint Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for Transport (DfT) policy team.

If these insurer submissions are anything to go by, the focus will be at least as much on the connected elements as the autonomous ones.

Will it have anything to say about who to save in no-win crash situations or who should be the data controller?

The final report is due in March 2021.

Online teach-out gives bite-sized answers to driverless car questions

If you’ve got a couple of hours to digest important driverless car questions, try this online course from the University of Michigan: Self-Driving Cars Teach-Out.

The university’s Ann Arbor campus is home to the 32-acre Mcity test facility, the first purpose-built proving ground for connected and automated vehicles (CAVs).

Carrie Morton, deputy director of Mcity, describes it as “the ultimate sandbox”, a place to foster collaboration with industry, government and academic partners.

Following a quick overview of the key on-board technologies – sensors, lidar, GPS etc – the university’s experts get into the nitty gritty of their specialisms.

Liz Gerber, professor of public policies, sets the scene, saying: “The promise of driverless vehicles is super exciting for communities and for society. We talk about the promise of reduced congestion, increased mobility options and enhanced safety and convenience.”

Professor Matthew Johnson Roberson discusses the fragility of artificial intelligence (AI) in dealing with new systems, the challenge of getting from 95% to 99.99% accuracy, and the importance of failing gracefully in the event of an error.

Professor Dan Crane looks at balancing competition, differentiation and standardisation, asserting that we should encourage “a thousand flowers to bloom”, because no one yet knows which technologies will work best.

Ian Williams, inaugural fellow for the Law & Mobility Program, addresses privacy concerns and the ability to change settings. He also raises the possibility of motorists being encouraged out of driving via the prohibitive cost of insurance.

Big picture thinking comes from Alex Murphy, assistant professor in sociology, who considers the profound impacts of a lack of transportation – from the kinds of jobs people can take to the schools they can access. “It has huge implications for inequality,” she says.

Lionel Robert, associate professor in the School of Information, predicts that we’ll see level five, fully autonomous, go anywhere CAVs “in our lifetime”. He focusses on giving consumers “accurate trust” in the technology, not under- or over-trust.

One reassuring point which crops up time and again is the continuing need for humans – from John the safety conductor on the Mcity Shuttle, to roles variously described as truck operators, fleet attendants, concierges and guides.

This evolution could potentially help to offset the fear that driverless technology will immediately put people out of a job, a belief which has been blamed for attacks on self-driving test cars.

CAV’s potential to help the blind community was also particularly thought-provoking.

Deadly driverless car crashes

Probably the highest profile fatal crash involving a driverless car occurred in Arizona in March 2018.

An Uber test car, in autonomous mode but with a safety driver, hit a 49-year-old homeless woman in the city of Tempe.

Elaine Herzberg was walking with a bicycle and not on a crossing. It was the first reported fatal crash in the US involving a self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian.

Fast forward nearly a year and the University of Michigan has unveiled a new project to predict pedestrian movements with greater accuracy.

“Prior work in this area has typically only looked at still images,” said Ram Vasudevan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “It wasn’t really concerned with how people move in three dimensions.”

By studying things like gait pace, foot placement and the symmetry of arms and legs, the team attempt to predict the future locations of one or several pedestrians up to 50 yards from the vehicle.

“If a pedestrian is playing with their phone, you know they’re distracted,” said Vasudevan. “Their pose and where they’re looking is telling you a lot about their level of attentiveness. It is also telling you a lot about what they’re capable of doing next.”

Previously, the most notorious driverless crash was also in the US, in 2016, when a Tesla Model S in autopilot mode smashed into a truck’s trailer, killing the car’s 40-year-old driver.

There have been numerous close shaves too.

Just last week in St. John’s, Canada, a driverless car reportedly set off at high-speed down a residential street, jumped a snow bank and slammed into a nearby garage.

Incredibly, no one was hurt. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) is investigating.

Must-see video: new driverless cars world record set in China

Guinness World Records has posted this video of what is officially now the largest parade of autonomous cars ever:

55 self-driving cars built by Changan Autmobile set the record at the Dianjiang test site in Chongqing, China, on 28 November 2018.

Design Boom reported that a 56th car was disqualified after the safety driver briefly took back control of the vehicle.

The challenge of London: can driverless cars unblock the world’s sixth most gridlocked city?

Today’s two new statements from the London Assembly – one on the cost of congestion and the other on changes to the licensing guidelines for taxis and minicabs – have highlighted major transport problems in the capital… issues which connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) could potentially help to solve.

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM, chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, said: “The revelation that London is the sixth most gridlocked city in the world, behind Moscow, Istanbul, Bogota and Mexico City, will come as no surprise to most road users.
 
“This is a shockingly expensive fact and hugely damaging to our global reputation. Getting millions of Londoners to and from work every day is a massive challenge – but we really have to try harder for the sake of our economy and our environment.
 
“The need to improve London’s public transport capacity is desperate – hence the urgent necessity for Crossrail and for more people to walk and cycle whenever possible.” 

Notably, the Transport Committee’s 65-page 2017 report London Stalling described the current Congestion Charge as “no longer fit for purpose” and recommended that “the Mayor should make plans now to introduce road pricing.”

Transport data firm Inrix has since calculated that the average road user in London lost up to £1,680 last year due to traffic jams.

There’s little doubt that smart highways and connected cars could help to ease congestion, or that electric vehicles would cut the damage from tailpipe emissions.

Admittedly, Adam Millard-Ball’s concern that self-driving cars could exacerbate the problem by cruising to get around paying for parking (as outlined in A dystopian vision of polluted London) would need to be tackled.

As to the government’s proposed new licensing guidelines for taxis and minicabs – which would require cabbies to pass enhanced criminal record checks – Pidgeon said: “Anything that improves the safety of passengers has to be a good thing.
 
“We need to prevent the likes of John Worboys from being able to operate as a legitimate licensed driver again and stop the worrying numbers of sexual assaults in minicabs.
 
“The big miss in the government response to the Department for Transport (DfT) Review is the statutory definition of plying for hire not being resolved. This has long been a major bone of contention and it appears to be too hard to resolve, so they aren’t going to try.”

Under existing regulations, private hire vehicles (PHVs) may only pick up passengers when pre-booked, rather than from a rank or being hailed.

However, the RMT, the union for transport workers, asserts that: “ smartphone apps such as Uber are circumventing the law governing the taxi and minicab industry”.

If the authorities haven’t even got their heads around smartphones yet, they’ve certainly got a lot of thinking to do when it comes to driverless cars, not least the thorny issue of who to save in no-win crash situations.