Several years ago, our CTI and WTI research and development team began an intensive search for truth with respect to Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, or ADAS. Since then there have been many assumptions made with respect to liability, tools, process and the business opportunity. Our team has been involved with no less than three pilot projects with professional customers in both the collision and mechanical space, which has garnered hundreds of calibrations, failures, successes and recognition of the critical elements of entering the business of serving motorists who own and drive an ADAS-equipped vehicle. While we continue to gather data from real calibration and ADAS failure issues, I want to take the opportunity to share with you what we know and don’t know in regards to ADAS. It is important to recognize that there are many people working on various gaps in this space that will ultimately make understanding and communicating ADAS information to your customers simpler than it is today.
The business opportunity is enormous; OEM dealers and collision centers either don’t see the need or opportunity, or they simply don’t have the room or expertise to implement ADAS service. This opens up three potential opportunities for shop owners. First is the Mobile Technician, who is typically at the front of the line with new technologies and provides a valuable service to many of you reading this article. The challenge for them is space, and the slope of the floor they have available also presents a challenge. While not available yet, there are calibration technologies coming that can overcome a small amount of slope. Also, performing calibrations outside is really not a viable option due to the back-lighting issues when calibrating cameras and the slope of the space available. The second opportunity is a progressive shop owner that happens to have available space or recognizes the opportunity in their community and builds said space to stand up a local ADAS calibration center. In a similar vein is the third opportunity, which is a series of regional/local ADAS or technology centers that handle ADAS and other advanced technology services/issues for the local service centers. The key is the skill set of the technician and the discipline to keep them focused on ADAS so they can become proficient and profitable. Calibration setup is critical, but time consuming if you’re paying flat rate, which opens the door for potential mistakes. Technology is coming that will make setup easier and more accurate, but until then we suggest an ADAS-focused technician.
Process is the next critical element of ADAS service and calibration. For nearly 40 years I’ve been an advocate that the most important skill anyone in our industry must possess is the ability to read, and in particular, read technical materials. This is not the ability to read Dr. Seuss or Moby Dick; it is a reading strategy designed to answer the questions you have based on the problem in front of you. Today’s service information is massive in scale, but also contains a treasure trove of answers. Some will simply tell you to RTM (Read the Manual), but that in itself is nearly impossible. It requires creating and implement a technical reading strategy that allows you to find the answers to your questions quickly.
For example, say you received a Toyota Camry from a customer who recently had a quarter panel replaced. Their complaint is the blind spot monitor is not working correctly on the repaired side of the car. There are no codes; this is not uncommon as some systems code when out of calibration and others do not, while some require the sensor to be able to ‘see’ before it can code. In this case the customer had taken it to Toyota for the same issue and was told there are no codes, so it should be OK. “Just drive the vehicle so it can learn” they say. A trained tech will pull up service information with the question focused on the Blind Spot Monitor and will look for calibration steps. With a technical reading strategy, you’ll quickly find steps that are required when the sensor isn’t pointed close enough to the as-designed position, so you decide to check calibration and discover it requires a Rear Beam Axis Calibration, which means the radar sensor behind the quarter panel can’t see the target. Service information demonstrates the need to check the face of the sensor for plum. After you remove the bumper cover to get to the sensor you find it is out of plum by 17 degrees. Specification is less than two degrees; look for an article and a training module focused on implementing a Technical Reading Strategy coming soon.
Next let’s focus on tools such as scan tools and targets. We have most all the aftermarket ADAS-enabled scan tools as well as the OEM scan tools, and we also have all the readily available aftermarket target systems, as well as a couple that aren’t yet sold in the US. We have OEM targets so we can do side-by-side calibrations with all the variables of tools and targets. Our goal is to find the truth with respect to what it takes to do ADAS; what we’ve found is most of the quality aftermarket tools do a great job of calibration. Some are tied to their own target system, but you can implement either OEM or another target supplier product and the results are the same. This of course assumes the targets are the same size, contrast and pattern as the OEM target. If they are, placing them in the spot relative to the vehicle centerline is no different than using the OEM target or tool. Remember, the tool does not calibrate the technology, it simply makes the request. However, there are systems where you’ll be asked to validate or enter correction factors into the scan tool that are shared with the controller to complete the calibration successfully. If the aftermarket tool does not allow this or skips that step, then the calibration will be inaccurate. But is that a fatal flaw? Our opinion at this point in time is not necessarily.
By now you recognize there are two types of calibration: static and dynamic. Static requires targets to be placed precisely in relation to the vehicle so the controller can compensate for lens quality in a camera for instance, or to validate the radar sensor can see the radar target in its preferred point of view. Early on in our research there many were saying that if you don’t calibrate the technology perfectly using OE tools and targets, then you run the chance of getting sued. I agree with that assumption with this caveat; if all you do is static calibration and do not test drive the vehicle under the conditions prescribed by the technology provider/OEM, then you only did half the job and yes, you might get sued. The other half of the service is the dynamic calibration.
Unfortunately, this is an area that is lacking by many OEMs in their service information. Here is what we have learned: static calibrations are required to verify the technology is pointed in the right direction both horizontally and vertically so the controller can adjust for lens quality in the case of cameras, or recognize blockage such as incorrect paint, bumper stickers laid over the radar sensor, etc. Once the vehicle is driven, the controller can gather enough data from each sensor then aggregate all the data so it can effectively recognize the real targets, accurately and on time. This dynamic calibration or learning is needed BEFORE the controller decides to activate collision avoidance or automated braking, blind spot warnings, dimming of headlights, or pull on the steering wheel to keep in their lane. Your failure to do this most critical of steps is essentially giving your customer that responsibility. What happens if the technology needs to react to avoid a collision but the controller has yet to learn after a calibration? If someone gets hurt then, who will the lawyers come looking for? But if you did both static and dynamic ensuring the technology had time to gather the needed data or had time to set a code that was not possible because the sensor was so far out of calibration it couldn’t see, then you’ll have done your job appropriately.
I can assure you we will keep researching to ensure we fully understand this new frontier. We will share our learnings with you in our training programs, and importantly, we will continue to work with the OEMs to bring the enable criteria for dynamic calibrations to your service information systems so you can find it, understand it and use it to protect your customers and you.