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Issues Persist with Uncalibrated ADAS Systems

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Recently, Sean O’Malley (pictured) has heard multiple horror stories with regard to uncalibrated advanced driver-assistance systems.  

Last winter, for example, O’Malley says a coworker with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had a family member endure a bizarre incident related to ADAS.

The coworker’s daughter had been in an accident that left her Toyota Prius with damage to both the front and rear of the vehicle. In the subsequent repair process, a radar unit located behind the Prius’ grill was accidentally tipped up 2 degrees. The car had been repaired, but the ADAS system had not been properly calibrated.

As a result, the car began automatically applying its brakes when it approached bridges.

“We looked at it and found the radar unit was tipped up,” says O’Malley, a senior test coordinator with the IIHS. So, “from 80 feet out, it’s looking at bridges instead of cars; it sees a coming bridge and considered it a threat like a stopped car.

“It’s concerning, because the insurance company paid for a calibration—they showed us an invoice and they had paid $700 for a calibration that wasn’t completed.”

Rick Zirbes (not pictured) shares O’Malley’s concerns. That’s why he’s rather outspoken when it comes to the need to properly calibrate ADAS systems.

“These technologies, at a minimum, alert drivers of potential or impending dangers,” says Zirbes, the president of Smart Express, a Bloomington, Minn.-based company that specializes in providing services for connected car technology. “But [they] also more commonly slow, stop, or steer the vehicle to prevent accidents—and save lives.”

According to I-CAR research, 86 percent of vehicles today have some form of ADAS technology, which aids with driving functions such as cruise control. Research by Safelite AutoGlass indicates that, when a windshield is replaced on vehicles featuring ADAS systems, it sometimes results in a slight difference in the angle of where that glass is sitting in relation to a camera lens. And, 1 degree of camera difference, when a vehicle is moving at 60 mph, equates to 30 yards per second.

“Calibrating radars and sensors is critical,” Zirbes says.

In recent weeks, FenderBender interviewed multiple industry experts regarding ADAS; here’s what O’Malley and Zirbes noted about the importance of properly calibrating those systems.

HOW DANGEROUS CAN AN UNCALIBRATED ADAS SYSTEM BE?

Zirbes: Lane-keeping, adaptive cruise, automatic braking and blind spot-alert systems work in tandem with other technologies, sending data to modules which, in turn, control the vehicle’s operations. Calibrating radars and sensors is critical to ensure systems activate when necessary. Calibrations also prevent false-alarm activations which may lead to life-saving systems being turned off to avoid inconvenience.

Calibrating systems to properly gauge speed and distance readings is critical to optimize performance and reduce fatalities. Failure to calibrate an automatic braking sensor may result in stopping 10 feet after hitting a vehicle—or a child—in the road.

DOES MORE NEED TO BE DONE TO CREATE AWARENESS ABOUT REPAIRING ADAS SYSTEMS?  

O’Malley: The manufacturers do have position statements, and they do send reports and they get published. [But] it’s all over the map right now, and we need to get them more in line.

From what we’ve seen here, [an ADAS system currently] has to be really far off for some kind of trigger from the vehicle.

I think the repairers and the dealerships need to be more involved, and more forceful, in making sure these ADAS recalibrations are completed and done correctly.

IS THE OCCURENCE OF UNCALIBRATED ADAS SYSTEMS WIDESPREAD?  

Zirbes: I believe most people want to do the right thing when it comes to calibrations. And, even when someone chooses the opposite, they [typically] do it out of ignorance. Sadly, in every industry there are also naysayers that look at it as someone else’s problem, or reject an idea as overkill. Unfortunately, sometimes the cost of the procedure is weighed in and valued more than the cost of lives.

As the number of cars with ADAS features continues to grow, so will the problem, unless the perspective of the industry changes. We direct the shop to the proper procedure, and to use OEM scan tools and equipment to perform the calibration.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME AN EXPERT ON ADAS CALIBRATIONS?

O’Malley: Read the OEMs’ position statements and follow their published protocols for calibration. All the information is out there, it just needs to be followed. We’ve fixed these, and we have manufacturer software that anybody could purchase, the diagnostic software.

It’s still fairly new technology, so the mom-and-pop shop, they probably don’t know about the radar units behind the bumper cover, or what it’s doing. Because, if they don’t read up on this stuff and stay up to speed, they’re never gonna know.

To get educated on ADAS, I’ve been to many industry events—I’ve been to the Collision Industry Conference, Auto Glass Week—and a couple other conferences, and ADAS is in every single one; five years ago, that wasn’t the case. So, it’s being covered more now. And education deletes ignorance.

 

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