Today’s cars are technological wonders. It is estimated that a modern high-end car has 100 million lines of code, more than what was found on the Space Shuttle.
Some of that code is the result of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that are now finding their way into today’s vehicles. If you are not familiar with ADAS, they are electronic safety systems that assist in driving or parking. Things like lane keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and parking assist all fall under the ADAS umbrella.
While these devices are designed to keep drivers safe, they cannot eliminate all accidents. In the event of an accident — or even something as simple as replacing a cracked windshield — it will be necessary to make sure that these devices are working properly.
If you think you don't need to worry because ADAS is a relatively new technology with limited use on vehicles, think again. While in 2015 only 6% of all light-duty vehicles were equipped with automatic emergency braking, in 2018 that percentage soared to 44.5%. The take rate for adaptive cruise control is at 34.6%, while 47.9% of cars are now equipped with blind-spot monitoring technology.
Some car companies are even beginning to make ADAS technology standard on their newest models. Consequently, it is expected that the percentage of vehicles equipped with ADAS will continue to increase.
There are a number of instances when ADAS will need to be recalibrated: following a collision when a windshield is replaced, following a suspension repair, after an ECM, PCM, or ECU is replaced and following a front-end alignment.
Sounds simple. However, according to Frank LaViola, vice president of sales and marketing at AirPro Diagnostics, an automotive technology development and service company, most collision repair shops are not prepared to recalibrate ADAS. Further, they are not even aware of the need for recalibration. Failure to recalibrate ADAS following one of the above events could result in it not functioning properly.
LaViola gave this example: Forward-facing cameras are often built into windshields. During a windshield replacement, the technician must disassemble parts that may include the camera. Since the camera helps judge how close a vehicle is to the one in front of it — allowing the automatic emergency braking function to take over — if it is not recalibrated properly the camera will not be able to judge distance or speed and therefore may not activate. The result could be a collision as the following car ran into the back of the lead car.
LaViola is not blaming collision shop technicians, but instead citing lack of training on the need to recalibrate these devices as part of the collision repair.
For fleet owners, it is incumbent on them to understand the ADAS technologies on their vehicles and alert the collision repair shop. Then, they need to ensure that the collision facility uses OEM-approved procedures to repair components that may include ADAS technology.
Nearly every automaker has identified proper repair protocol of ADAS following a collision.
Automaker’s position statements on a variety of topics, including pre- and post-accident repair scanning, can be found at OEM1STOP. (www.OEM1TOP.com) A word of caution about scan tools — LaViola says that 92% of today’s scan tools don't cover 2019 or 2020 model-year vehicles.
This raises the question of whether a fleet owner is obligated to purchase ADAS on new vehicles. According to Wesley Hurst, who heads the mobility and vehicle use practice at the Polsinelli law firm, “of course, while the vehicle needs to comply with federal and state safety and equipment directives, generally, there is no duty to install particular types of optional systems on the vehicles you acquire.”
However, Hurst notes that there is a pending Pennsylvania case alleging that a truck fleet operator may have an obligation to provide a collision warning and automatic brake system on a fleet truck used by a commercial lessee.
The judge denied a motion to dismiss by the commercial fleet operator and suggested there could be a factual question as to whether the optional warning and brake systems should have been provided.
However, if you do acquire an ADAS-equipped vehicle “You have taken on a responsibility of maintaining it consistent with the (original equipment manufacturer) directives,” Hurst says. “What that means in real terms is being thoughtful about the service providers you utilize to repair the vehicle.”
How do you demonstrate thoughtfulness in selecting a repair provider? Hurst suggests that best practices could include asking about certifications and experience with these types of systems.
LaViola suggests asking the repairer following questions:
- Do you have I-CAR or OEM training? (According to its website, I-CAR, the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information, knowledge and skills required to perform complete, safe and quality repairs.)
- Do you have OEM certifications?
- Do you have the tools needed to repair the vehicle and recalibrate the ADAS?
- Do you repair vehicles per OEM guidelines?
- Do you do pre- and post-scanning in house or do you outsource it?
“To complete these scans properly and to recalibrate ADAS you either need the OEM tools or you need to utilize the OEM software,” he says.
Hurst also believes that repair shops have an obligation to “raise their hands and say ‘We are a little out of our lane here. We don’t have the expertise, the ability, or the experience to handle this type of repair.’”
If the repair shop tells the fleet manager it in fact has the ability to handle ADAS, the fleet owner is under no obligation to dig deeper, Hurst says, “unless there are circumstances that would put them on alert that perhaps the repair shop is stretching things a little bit.”
Then the fleet manager needs to probe further about the experience of the service provider, he says.
An Evolving Issue
In the event of an accident involving a vehicle with ADAS that previously has been repaired, a judge or jury is going to review if the conduct of the defendant breached a duty of care or fell below the industry standard, Hurst says.
Hurst adds that those are the criteria that are used in these types of cases which usually hinge on negligence and turn on the specific facts and circumstances of the case.
LaViola says that many law firms now subscribe to Carfax to be able to view a vehicle’s repair history. Those firms are also engaging post repair inspection companies for ammunition to identify faulty repairs.
Because ADAS is relatively new, Hurst says that case law has not yet been fully developed. The Pennsylvania trucking case mentioned above bears watching, Hurst notes.
While not a case involving ADAS repair, a collision repair facility was required to pay $31.5 million in negligent damages to a man who was injured in a car accident. The vehicle involved in the accident had been repaired previously, but the collision repair company deviated from Honda’s repair specifications when repairing the vehicle’s roof. The jury found the repair shop negligent and assigned them 75% of the blame while the driver of the other vehicle was assigned 35%.
The bottom line is that fleets need to protect themselves by ensuring the repair shops they use to fix their vehicles following a collision are well qualified to perform not only the repairs to the body of the vehicle but also to check and recalibrate any ADAS devices that are on the vehicle.
Automakers are offering ADAS for a reason — to improve safety on the road. We can expect to reap the benefits of these safety systems, but fleet managers need to exercise caution and recognize that the market of entities capable of repairing these devices is still developing.
It is no longer a smart business decision to just trust that the body shop you have always used has the capabilities to deal with maintaining the integrity of ADAS following a collision.
Fleets need to ask specific questions relating to their shop’s capabilities surrounding ADAS calibration.
As the technology develops and gains widespread acceptance, fleet operators must develop best practice guidelines and criteria for not only how ADAS should be maintained, but also how they need to be treated following a crash.