The vehicle of the future: Part 2

July 1, 2019
Autonomous vehicles may only seem futuristic, but advanced safety systems are bringing them closer to reality. Are technicians prepared?

This article was co-authored by Lisa Lofton.

Editor’s Note: This is the second part in a two-part series on autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the collision repair industry. See Part One in the June 2019 issue to learn more about the training technicians must seek to align themselves with automakers as vehicle technology continues to develop.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are – to a great degree – what allows autonomous vehicles (AVs) to exist. It “knows” what is going on around it as best as it can. When designed with a safe Human-Machine Interface, these systems should increase vehicle safety and overall road safety.

Although it may seem like AVs are a long way off, they are already here but in just a different way from how people typically think of them. Fully autonomous vehicles, a.k.a. driverless vehicles or self-driving cars, are yet to come, but modern vehicles already average more than 100 Electronic Control Units (ECUs) and ADAS systems further augment them.

Many advanced safety systems – such as blind spot detection, lane departure warnings and parking assistance – now often come as standard equipment on vehicles.

There are many legal questions concerning AVs, especially ones that will be fully autonomous (referred to as Level 5) and what it means to other vehicles that aren’t able to be seen electronically. With vehicle technology continuously changing, these questions and concerns that go with them are legitimate – particularly with advanced vehicle safety systems.

What’s the deal with ADAS?

There has been much discussion tied to ADAS because of the numerous sensors currently on vehicles and increasing every year. What were simple beeping systems morphed into a vehicle being able to detect if it was going to back into another car in a parking lot.

These sensors are levels of AV technology. When they are damaged, they are a critical part of the repair process. Not only must they be repaired or replaced, but they must also be recalibrated and reset.

Some of the ADAS technologies aren’t new – adaptive cruise control was on the front of Mercedes in 2002 and on Chrysler in 2004. Many advanced safety systems – such as blind spot detection, lane departure warnings and parking assistance now often come as standard equipment on vehicles, even base models. (The Ford Focus, often considered an entry-level vehicle in the Ford line, now has parking assistance.)

Why most Americans are ‘afraid’ of completely driverless vehicles

Advancements in technology and infrastructure continue to bring us closer to developing fully self-driving vehicles, but widespread acceptance remains an issue. The majority of U.S. drivers (71 percent) indicated they “would be afraid” to ride in completely autonomous vehicles (AVs), the American Automobile Association (AAA) found in its March 2019 Automated Vehicle Survey – Phase IV, its fourth annual survey conducted to study consumer attitudes toward fully driverless autonomous vehicles (AVs).

These fear levels are similar to those found in the April 2018 survey, which was conducted following high-profile incidents involving fatalities. Despite these non-accepting consumer attitudes, more than half (55 percent) of U.S. drivers think that by 2029 most cars will be able to drive themselves.

The naysayers who are confident that humans will still be in the driver seat in 10 years say it’s because they believe people won’t trust completely self-driving vehicles (53 percent) and also will not want to give up driving themselves (52 percent). Thirty-four percent of people surveyed think that technology for fully driverless AVs will not be ready, and 33 percent of this group say they don’t think road conditions will be good enough.

For a link to the March 2019 report, and the methodology used for the survey, go to

Despite that, the collision repair industry is just beginning to truly grasp everything involved with working on these systems. Although the topic of pre-repair and post-repair scans seems to be constantly discussed, it is worth reiterating because it is so important. A vehicle scan must be done prior to any repairs to get the whole picture of diagnostic codes – and the results will depend on the complexity of the network.

A post-repair scan is also important to make sure that not only pre-repair issues were addressed but to see whether any other codes were created during the repair process. Essentially, the post-repair check is checking to see if existing codes have cleared and whether additional codes were created during the repair process.

Technicians need to consider the initial estimate with the understanding that they may cause additional codes during the repair. It doesn’t mean they necessarily did anything wrong; it just means a code was caused during the repair process. However, it does require that the car is made “whole” again and that it’s safe.

This illustration shows a vehicle in self-driving mode with a radar signal system and wireless communication.

For example, disconnecting the battery during repair may trigger a system code or removing the driver’s door of a car may trigger various codes. A repair which seems as simple as replacing a door mirror from a failed power mirror actually may be quite complex. There may be a sensor inside of the door mirror that needs to be recalibrated as well as the system to which it’s connected. All of these sensors and parts of ADAS systems need to be checked. This step is not always done in the repair process.

Why? There are a variety of reasons. Recalibration could have been passed over or ignored because shop technicians may not have been trained well enough. It could also be because an insurance company won’t cover the cost for the necessary recalibration.

Although this topic may seem to be “beat into the ground,” there is a great deal of complexity with so many systems that tie back to ADAS and all of them become enablers for various levels in vehicle autonomy.

Furthering complicating the repair process is how each state is different in how it holds an insurer responsible for what must be done in the repair process. One problem is that insurers attempt to drive the repair process, but they are actuaries – people who compile and analyze statistics to calculate insurance risks and premiums.

Autonomous vehicles and state legislation

Nevada became the first state in 2011 to enact legislation to specifically allow autonomous vehicle (AV) research and testing on public roads with both limited and full self-driving capabilities.

State and federal have started developing regulatory frameworks to govern how highly automated vehicles will function on public roads. Now, one state has expanded to 34 states and the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) that have enacted legislation or taken executive action addressing automation, according to a May 2019 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI).

  • The following 10 states have laws to authorize a study, define key terms or authorized funding: Alabama, Delaware, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin
  • These 10 states have authorized testing of AVs: Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Washington
  • Washington, D.C., and 14 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota (effective as of Aug. 1, 2019), Tennessee, Texas and Utah (effective as of May 29, 2019) have authorized full deployment of AVs.
  • There are now 16 states which allow testing or deployment without a human operator in the vehicle – although there is the caveat that this is limited to certain defined conditions.
  • These 11 states now do not always require an operator to be licensed: (Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. Prior to this, laws that allowed AVs to be operated initially required that a human operator was present and able to take over the AV in case of an emergency.
  • Vehicle automation is being implemented in large trucks, and so far, these 22 states have regulated platooning: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

This permits groups of individual trucks or buses to travel together with set distance between them at coordinated speeds.

For more on the type of driving automation on public roads state laws/provisions permit, whether an operator must be licensed or even in the vehicle, and if liability insurance is required, as well as an interactive map, go to

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI)

It has become necessary for a paradigm shift where repairers are the experts writing estimates and developing the repair plan – not the people who indemnify the vehicle. To that end, it also means technicians also need to be trained properly (and have the integrity) to develop an accurate repair plan to bring the vehicles back to pre-loss condition.

In this Google world, technicians don’t need to know every single detail and step of a process by heart for every vehicle. They just need to know how to find the information, utilize it and complete a task.

The OEM challenge

Incomplete repairs are the biggest missteps in vehicle repair, but the challenge to ensuring that vehicles are repaired correctly, especially with ADAS systems, is that original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has different requirements and procedures for how to properly perform the recalibrations.

A proprietary sensor from each OEM isn’t the problem – it’s what must be done for repair. Nothing has been standardized to allow for development of a universal process. Establishing standardized repair methods and training technicians to follow them would eliminate this variable. It can be likened to trying to turn around the Titanic in about 40 feet – what seems like an impossible feat.

Image courtesy of American Automobile Association (AAA)

Better – required – education within the trades is needed so that technicians may not perform repairs on vehicles until properly trained. When incompetent or improperly trained technicians disassemble a vehicle and poorly perform repairs, it jeopardizes the vehicle safety as well as the collision repair industry reputation.

It can be compared to being part of a science experiment or to vaccinations – everything is done upfront to make sure the repair is proper and safe but sometimes it seems like just crossing your fingers. It’s imperative to know where all the ADAS systems are in a vehicle and how they work so it doesn’t “defeat” the purpose of the system. It is so important that technicians go through the complete steps when working on a vehicle.

One example is as simple as an oil change. The car’s system indicated an oil change was needed. After the oil change was completed, the technician now has to “explain” to the vehicle that it has had this service done and then reset the system algorithm. With so many systems that may be affected during the collision repair process, it becomes even more complex.

Privacy and security concerns

The issue of security is being raised in discussions about AVs. Personal data may be stored and recorded in a vehicle such as crash data, time of crash, percentage of brake application, etc. Additional security questions continue to come up as the capability to record more data increases on nearly everything.

How advanced driver safety systems can double repair costs

Despite concerns that fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) will put a dent in the collision repair industry’s profitability because of reduced incidents, vehicles equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are actually driving up repair bills.

Even minor collisions can double repair bills, adding about an extra $3,000 in costs for vehicles with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and other systems because of expensive sensors and the necessary recalibration, according to new research from the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Many safety systems use cameras positioned behind the windshield, which must be calibrated when the glass is replaced. More than 14.5 million windshields are replaced each year. Radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors in or behind front and rear bumpers, bodywork or built into side mirrors may be easily damaged even without a collision – e.g. hitting a mailbox, bumping into a stationary object or even when pulling out of a garage.

Although variables such as a vehicle’s make and model, the type and location of a sensors and the location of the work being done on the vehicle will affect costs, here is a look at the ranges for typical ADAS repair expenses:

  • Front radar sensors used with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control systems: $900 to $1,300
  • Rear radar sensors used with blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert systems: $850 to $2,050
  • Front camera sensors used with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keeping systems: $850 to $1,900
  • Front, side mirror or rear camera sensors used with around-view systems: $500 to $1,100
  • Front or rear ultrasonic sensors used with parking assist systems: $500 to $1,300
  • Windshield replacement for vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems:
    • Aftermarket glass: $1,200 to $1,600
    • Factory glass: $1,300 to $1,650

Note: These results only include the cost to repair ADAS and do not factor in body work or other collision-related repairs. For a downloadable PDF of key findings, go to

Source: American Automobile Association (AAA)

There are a great deal of questions about who is able to view personal information and who really owns the knowledge or data. Where does privacy stop and start? For example, an insurance company does not report to companies that compile vehicle history data because then the topic of diminished value comes up and insurers would ultimately have to include this cost in a settlement.

This same type of issue can be expected to continue with scanning and recalibration, which may result the developing laws for the automotive repair industry like the medical privacy laws. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, referred to commonly as HIPPA, refers to U.S. legislation that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information. Prior to HIPPA implementation, there was not a generally accepted set of security standards or requirements for protecting health information in the healthcare industry.

Not only will there be legislation needed where autonomous vehicles are concerned, but there are myriad ethical decisions that must be made. Ultimately, the collision repair industry needs to remain focused on how to fix cars correctly, working with the OEMs, and continually train technicians as AV technology continues to advance.

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