June 30, 2020—A June 18 web presentation from SEMA shined a light on the challenges faced by aftermarket repairers dealing with the multitude of ADAS systems.
In facilities like collision shops, most of the calibration work is being done on vehicles with factory settings like tire size, suspension and parts. ADAS work can be time-consuming and expensive enough in that space, but what if the vehicle has a lift kit or an aftermarket bumper?
In that web presentation, some of the biggest names in aftermarket modification described their work in retrofitting and calibrating vehicles with aftermarket changes.
John Natoci, chief operating officer for American Expedition Vehicles, described some of the processes the company went through to outfit its own version of a 2020 Jeep Wrangler.
AEV’s modifications included a snorkel, off-road lights, a new bumper and skid plate, as well as new wheels and tires.
The ADAS features they’re dealing with on the Wrangler include rear park assist, rear camera, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and blind spot warning.
“Now that we know what’s on the vehicle we need to understand how our new parts may affect them,” Natoci said. “And even the smallest changes can have a big effect.”
Because AEV manufactures a lot of the parts, the company starts by running a lot of computer tests. For a new rear bumper and tire carrier, for example, the aftermarket parts end up moving the sensors slightly. But they must ensure that the sensors retain the same scope of vision and functionality as they would in the stock parts.
Physical tests start with a baseline of data from the stock Wrangler.
“We’re going to baseline the unmodified vehicle.,” Natoci said. “We’ll use this baseline data later in the testing process.”
There’s a lot of field testing and verification that goes into the process—all to satisfy the ADAS functionality.
Testing has become a big undertaking for these modified vehicles, and the technology is so new that these companies are really paving the way for creating processes.
What all the representatives in the presentation had in common was that these investments weren’t really being questioned. With the safety advantages of ADAS systems on board the vehicles they work on, the companies had to adapt and invest in testing to ensure the functionality after modification.
One example of the investments required came from the SCA Performance Division at FOX Factory. The division outfits around 1,000 lifted trucks per month that are sold through dealerships, so maintaining ADAS functionality to OE specs is crucial.
President Michael McSweeney shared some insight about their work on a 2020 GMC Sierra, which received a new lift suspension system, tires and wheels. Extensive calibration and testing goes into these vehicles after the new parts are installed.
McSweeney says they first start with some of the more common calibrations—speedometer, wheel alignment and steering angle—before getting into the ADAS features.
“Once we get past these foundational calibration and validations, we can begin thinking about the newer features like calibrating the cameras,” he said.
The OE specs are precise, so much so that presenters in the webinar talked about how deflated tires or heavy cargo loads can throw off the functionality. In the case of these modifiers, they’re working out calibrations for vehicles with altered ride height and clearance. It’s a lot to consider.
McSweeney said that after they’ve performed valid calibrations, they send vehicles to the Transportation Research Center, which does a lot of OE testing as well.
One of the crucial tests done here is for the automatic emergency braking systems. Blaine Ricketts, ADAS test lead at TRC, said there are three different scenarios that are tested. They simulate people walking out in front of vehicles, including a child-sized dummy that walks out from behind parked cars.
The end result is documented evidence that the ADAS systems performed as needed on modified vehicles.