The ABCs of ADAS

May 3, 2021
As ADAS technology’s prominence continues to grow, shops of all sizes will need to be equipped with the most up-to-date ADAS tools and equipment.
Photo courtesy of Brian Wendl
Technicians can perform many dynamic calibrations for ADAS using a diagnostic scan tool.
Technicians can perform many dynamic calibrations for ADAS using a diagnostic scan tool.

ADAS, or advanced driver assistance systems, is a term that’s popping up more and more frequently in the automotive sphere.

“We are currently in the age where the vehicles being released to the market are being designed to protect the driver and external elements to minimize accidents and collisions,” said Haresh Gobin, product development manager for Launch Tech USA.

This means as more vehicles are outfitted with ADAS capabilities such as adaptive cruise control, backup cameras, and lane departure warning, automotive shops must prepare themselves to handle repairing and recalibrating these systems.

“In the past, as new technologies would come along with vehicles […] a number of people just said, ‘Look, I'm an old timer. I'm just going to go to brakes and suspension and forget about all that. And you young guys can do all that.’ And you could argue about how successful they were at that, but they could at least draw a line in the sand,” said Ben Johnson, director of product management for Mitchell 1. “ADAS is so different. We've got cameras behind windshields. We've got cameras behind grills. We've got sensors behind fenders and bumpers. We get all these things going on. And while a technician or a shop may very well say, ‘Look, you know what? This is too new for us. We're just going to do the basic things we know how to do,’ but they can't really get away from it.”

Currently, many dealerships and some larger body shops are handling ADAS work, not the smaller, independent shops. But, with ADAS here to stay and more and more capabilities being added to each new vehicle, every shop, no matter its size, will need a plan for servicing ADAS repairs.

To set this plan in motion, shop owners will be looking to their tool dealers for information on what equipment they need and how they can prepare their shop and technicians for these new additions.

Decisions, decisions

For shops looking to add ADAS services to their repertoire, Johnson noted they have three options:

  1. Have a bay dedicated to ADAS services. No other work, except ADAS work, is done here.
  2. Have a bay where ADAS equipment can be setup when need be.
  3. Sub out any ADAS work to a local dealership or shop that can do the ADAS work for them.

Obviously, no shop will want to pick option three, but space restrictions may not allow for them to choose otherwise. However, as the tools and equipment for performing ADAS calibrations have evolved, it’s become easier for some of the smaller shops to break into the ADAS field.

When servicing ADAS related repairs, there are two kinds of calibrations a shop can perform – static and dynamic.

“A dynamic calibration typically is just done either with a factory or an aftermarket scan tool that supports it,” explained Brian Wendl, Mac Tools mobile tool dealer. “You put the vehicle into calibration mode, you go for a drive or whatever the procedure may be depending on make and model, and it calibrates itself during that process.

“Static calibrations typically have a much larger space requirement that varies by manufacturer. The car literally just sits in the middle of the room and aims at a target or something like that – Lexus has you draw lines on the floor and set a target in a very specific spot.”

Wendl has been a mobile tool dealer for Mac Tools for almost 10 years now. He services dealerships, independent shops, body shops, and a few city and heavy equipment type shops. His route travels through Southeast Virginia into Hampton, Newport News, and Yorktown.

Initially, the only option for ADAS calibrations was the static calibration, Launch Tech’s Gobin explained. This meant that only dealerships and certain service shops with a large enough space to dedicate to the static calibration ADAS equipment could perform these calibrations. Recently, though, more equipment for performing dynamic ADAS calibrations has become available, making it easier for smaller, independent shops to join the game.

“Manufacturers have streamlined the knowledge/learning curve by integrating guided ADAS process steps on a multitude of vehicle makes and models on diagnostic scan tools to provide the independent shop and technician the confidence, technical knowhow, and all the necessary tools required to perform calibrations,” Gobin said.

Additionally, products like Launch Tech’s X-431 ADAS Mobile unit are designed with saving floor space in mind. Gobin said the unit is “mobile, foldable, deployable, and versatile and will not interfere with other service bay functions.” The fact that the unit can be folded down and stored in a closet gives smaller automotive shops the opportunity to perform ADAS calibrations without having to give up a whole bay to the process.

Ready for it?

Half the battle of convincing a customer to buy a new product is conquering their fear of the unknown. No one wants to spend thousands of dollars on a new tool or equipment if they don’t know how to use it.

Many ADAS tools and equipment manufacturers, such as Autel, Bosch, Mitchell 1, and Launch Tech have a number of video demonstrations on how to use the equipment. Some also offer live Zoom demonstrations to assist the shops with setup and use.

Right now, no certifications are needed to perform ADAS repairs or recalibrations, but according to Mitchell 1’s Johnson, who sits on an ADAS subcommittee of the Auto Care Association’s Emerging Technology Group, there is a lot of discussion around creating an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification for ADAS. Johnson said he believes that once a certification is created, training organizations like the CarQuest Training Institute (CTI) and others will be able to create more of a curriculum around ADAS, which will make training more widely available to shops and technicians.

Though, training can be broken down into two parts, said Scott McKinney, product marketing manager for Bosch.

  1. The first is actual repair training, so knowing how to replace and work on these ADAS systems.
  2. The second is calibration training, so knowing when to calibrate, how to calibrate, and being able to identify what calibration needs to be done.

Out of both parts of ADAS training, the most crucial factor is knowing when to calibrate.

“Currently [ADAS] systems require recalibrations when the vehicle’s sensor system has been disturbed in any way,” said Gobin. “This most frequently takes place in a collision, even if it was a minor fender bender, but sensor disturbance can also happen during frequent, common service work such as windshield replacements, wheel alignments, and even suspension repairs.”

In short, calibrations are becoming necessary for some of the most routine repairs. Shops must have the proper equipment and training to handle ADAS, so they can safely send their customers back out on the road.

Making the sale

“ADAS is kind of tricky,” Mac mobile tool dealer Wendl said of stocking ADAS tools and equipment to sell. “Mac’s ET 7200 scanner will do a lot of your dynamic calibrations. When it comes to static calibrations, the tools required for it cost about $30,000, and they take up two flat pallets and weigh about 400 pounds. So, it's almost impossible to stock stuff for static calibrations.”

However, Wendl noted, regardless of being able to stock the static calibration equipment on his truck, Mac does have that equipment available to their customers. The biggest problem with the static equipment is that it hasn’t been available on the aftermarket for very long, only about 12 to 18 months. That means there’s not a lot of equipment in the field for shops to take a look at.

Wendl explained this is also a problem because the shops “all want to see it and touch it.”

If possible, though, Vinie Putrino, a lead ADAS technician for Autel, suggested mobile tool dealers find either a facility to display the equipment or a facility that already has the equipment and hold seminars regularly for customers to “see the tool in action and even try it out.”

Bosch’s McKinney also pointed out that a big selling point is this equipment gives the shop a new way to generate revenue. No shop wants to be giving away work, and therefore money, if they could be providing the service themselves.

Most importantly, when trying to sell ADAS tools and equipment, mobile tool dealers should understand how and when to use these tools. Knowing all of a product’s features and benefits is a good start, but also understanding that when a certain repair like a suspension repair is done, the technician should check to see if any recalibrating is necessary, will provide greater credibility.

“A [mobile tool dealer] that understands and can explain that scenario to a customer will definitely sell more ADAS tools,” said Putrino.

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