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.

Shock news: driverless cars threaten driving jobs

The impact of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs is a hot topic this week.

In Northern Ireland, a study by the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) concluded that 58% of jobs are at risk of “substantial change” due to advances in AI, robotics and other technologies.

The report highlighted a re-emergence of ‘automation anxiety’ and concerns about the future of work.

However, it also asserted that “while automation may destroy some jobs, an equal or greater number of jobs will likely be created in the aftermath.”

Nice use of “likely”.

In India, The News Minute reported on a keynote speech by the country’s Telecom Secretary, Aruna Sundararajan.

“Adoption of digital technology has proved to be a great democratiser and leveller,” she said. “But digital is also throwing up many challenges and there are no easy answers to them.

“There are various estimates about the rate at which jobs are becoming irrelevant – from 10% to a high of 70%.”

Sundararajan suggested that a universal basic income could be part of the solution.

“The idea of providing universal basic income is gaining ground because a lot of Silicon Valley leaders are pushing for it,” she said.

In the UK, research by MoneySuperMarket found that automation of driving jobs could trigger large-scale redundancies by as early as 2023.

Seán Kemple, director of sales at Close Brothers Motor Finance, noted: “The courier service industry is already anticipating huge changes, particularly for last-mile delivery, and not much further down the line the taxi industry is likely to change too.”

One reassuring point which cropped up in the University of Michigan’s Self-Driving Cars Teach-Out was the continuing need for humans in roles variously described as operators, attendants, concierges or guides.

This dovetails with a recent Opinium survey for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which found that 77% believe driverless vehicles in the UK should have someone ready to take the wheel.

Ben Lawson, vice president of mobility and project development at Enterprise Rent-A-Car UK, said: “There are many elements that will determine when driverless cars become mainstream including the technology itself, consumer attitudes, affordability and public policy.”

Something akin to the long-running argument about the need for train guards seems – to coin a phrase – likely.

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.

Trade tips: electric vehicle servicing

Please note: a version of this article first appeared in the February 2019 issue of IMI Magazine and was written for a motor trade audience.

In our Dec/Jan issue, James Dillon predicted that “setting up as the local electric vehicle specialist will pay dividends in the long run”.

The experience of Tomsett MOT Centre, in Kent, gives credence to this theory. Owner Dave Tomsett explains: “I keep up with new technologies and getting into EV sounded like a wise move, so I started researching training.

“I did the one-day IMI awareness course, which was excellent, and went on to do level 1 and 2 with Bosch, and level 3 and 4 with Pro-Moto.

“We are one of very few garages to have these qualifications and, because we do trade MOTs as well as retail, we could see there was demand.

“In January 2018, we dedicated a bay to hybrid and electric, lined it out and invested in new equipment. We already had Snap-on diagnostic tools but we purchased a G-scan 2 and other kit such as insulated gloves and workshop signage.

“We did a local press launch highlighting that we were making our plug-in point available as a free resource, and it went down very well.”

Tomsett have a Prius courtesy car stickered-up to advertise that they’re an EV specialist and Dave heaps praise on the new Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Repair Alliance (HEVRA).

“We share information with other repairers and even borrow tools, which saves you buying things you might only use once in a blue moon,” he says.

Peter Melville established HEVRA following a problem with his parents’ plug-in Vauxhall. “I started in independent garages and was working for Snap-on when this issue arose with the Ampera’s air con,” he says. “The nearest franchised dealer was an hour away and several good independents wouldn’t take it.

“In the end, I found a mobile air con specialist who had the kit to work on high voltage. I realised there was a gap in the market – a service to help people find local independent garages covering EV. That was the embryo for what became HEVRA.

“We carefully vet all our members to ensure they have the appropriate qualifications and correct tools. Then, for £25 a month, we provide a technical hotline, a quarterly newsletter and advertise on all the main electric car forums, to let people know there is an alternative to the main dealers.”

Over at Pro-Moto, director Eliot Smith is at the forefront of EV training, having previously been responsible for upskilling Honda’s UK network.

“When we started Pro-Moto about 10 years ago I was on the IMI group putting together EV courses, along with representatives from City & Guilds and the Fire & Rescue Service,” he says.

“We now work with manufacturers including JLR, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Fiat, Toyota and McLaren, as well as independent garages, and we certified about 300 technicians to level 4 last year.

“The principles are the same on all EVs. Electricity is never going to change, the whole universe is built on it, but different manufacturers take different approaches to things like battery management.

“In the early days, we were only doing about 10 courses a year, but we’ve got five courses running concurrently next week. Demand is high.

“We unravel the complexities, give people experience of different platforms, make them aware of the risks and give them the skills to service, maintain and repair if necessary.

“Manufacturers are bringing more EVs to market but as an industry we are failing to explain it to the end user. What’s best for them – a battery car or what type of hybrid? Staff in dealerships need to be educated in these technologies to give them the confidence to explain it to customers.

“Manufacturers know where they are with the internal combustion engine. With electric, they aren’t so sure. What if there was a warranty issue? What are the options for second life batteries? How do they mitigate against these unknowns?

“What manufacturers can do is make sure their technicians have the right skills, tools and parts to service EVs, and the aftermarket must be ready to pick up where franchised dealers leave off.”

Demonstrating the depth of expertise in the repair sector, Neil Kidby, product category manager at Sealey, also did the level 2 and 3 courses with Bosch.

“We are lagging behind Europe in terms of Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) penetration, but these technologies are coming and it will happen quickly,” he says. “Before long you might be powering your house from your Toyota.

“The fact is a lot of technicians are frightened of electric cars. The battery is scary, but if you take that out of the equation it is very much like working on any other car. What you must do is protect yourself and have a sealed environment.

“This isn’t as expensive or such a leap as many think. Hybrid vehicles have been around for 100 years after all. Isolate the battery and follow the manufacturers’ instructions and you will lay the foundations for the continued success of your business.

“The essentials are: an exclusion zone – barriers and signage to stop people wandering in (as a bonus this also advertises that you do this type of work); then there’s the kit – an insulation mat and gloves – and a category III voltmeter.

“There’s also the only item we sell which we hope is never used: a rescue pole. People don’t like to think about it, but you have to. In the worst case scenario, with electrocution there’s a risk that a body could catch fire if it isn’t isolated.

“In terms of sales, we’ve seen an upward trend over the last six months. We currently sell mainly to independent garages but are in negotiations with a major vehicle manufacturer too.”

Back at the coalface, Dave Tomsett concludes: “We cannot earn a living from EV alone yet, but it is growing. Overall, we’ve invested around £7.5k in new tools, training and equipment. Some jobs can be time-consuming but it’s a learning curve.

“We have a new apprentice coming in the summer and he’ll be involved with EVs from day one. That’s vital because we need to attract more skilled youngsters into the industry – working on vehicles like these should be an appealing alternative to the university route.

“Attitudes are changing; the 2040 deadline for petrol and diesel sales will focus minds, range will increase and as battery technology improves it will snowball.”

An important question we’ve not delved into is whether the government should legislate to require anyone working on EVs to have further qualifications. We’ll explore that another day.

Must-see: Mercedes Vision Urbanetic concept gets two million views on YouTube

A short film by Mercedes-Benz about its Vision Urbanetic mobility concept has been viewed over two million times on YouTube.

The 1min 38sec video published last September showcases a self-driving, electrically-powered chassis with switchable bodies.

It can be used as a ride-sharing vehicle with space for up to 12 passengers, or as a goods transporter with space for 10 pallets.

Leaping off the drawing board, a scale version of the car was on display at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Mercedes says it can reduce traffic flows, take the pressure off strained city infrastructures and contribute to an improved quality of urban life.

Most small businesses expect their vehicles to be electric by 2030 and driverless by 2040

55% of small enterprises think their fleets will be fully autonomous within 20 years, with 38% expecting it to happen in half that time, according to new research by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi light commercial vehicle (LCV) business.

In a survey of 3,257 small businesses in the UK, USA, China, France, Mexico, Australia and Japan, 66% also predicted that their fleets would be fully electric within 20 years, with 50% expecting it to happen in half that time.

35% said they were already using smarter technology in their fleets, with efficiency improvements and cost savings the main motivations.

30% said the key benefit of connectivity would be the ability to communicate with the people they’re delivering to.

“We recognize the importance of smart technology to increase efficiency and continue to work together to develop connected and autonomous vehicles that cater to the needs of business fleets of all shapes and sizes,” said Ashwani Gupta, senior vice president of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi LCV business.

Between now and 2022, the alliance says it will launch 12 new zero-emission vehicles, utilising new common electric vehicle platforms. Over the same period, it plans to introduce up to 40 models with autonomous features, although equipment levels will vary.

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.