You have heard me say it before…Today’s and tomorrow’s vehicles today are “computers on wheels”. With more than 100 million lines of code, that’s more than twice that of an F-35 fighter jet or the Large Hadron Collider, the largest energy particle collider and the largest machine in the world.
Vehicle ADAS safety systems are what is driving the increased use and implementation of software, sensors, ECU’s and other technologies! And if you think this trend is going to stop, YOU ARE WRONG! In 2022 97% of all vehicles manufactured in North America will include Automated Emergency Braking (AEB).
The other thing we need to remember is many vehicle parts and panels now include electronics, cameras, and sensors. Today when a repair facility replaces a windshield, repairs a bumper, performs a front-end alignment, or simply disconnects a battery, that vehicle may need to be calibrated. Once calibrated, the repair facility must perform a detailed “Dynamic Systems Verification” road test, (Check out www.testdrivecopilot.com, the best and only way to manage and document “Dynamic Systems Verification” road tests), to ensure the vehicle safety systems operate as the OEM manufacturer designed them to!
Because of this “digitalization of the automobile” I expect claim frequency to decrease while repair costs increase. At the same time the percentage of vehicle repair procedures associated with electronics, sensors, cameras, Radar and other technologies will increase dramatically. Data from collision industry information providers show that average repair costs over the past three (3) years have increased by more than 17%! We haven’t even started to experience the costs of ADAS calibrations! If the industry freaked out about the costs of scanning, wait until the calibration invoices start appearing in large numbers!
Speaking of calibrations, it is my belief that 95% of most repair facilities don’t have the space, the personnel or don’t want to spend the money to perform calibrations. This situation will lead to the creation of a new business segment, vehicle calibration centers (VCC’s). A properly equipped and trained vehicle calibration center (VCC) will operate 24/7 and complete as many as 50 calibrations per day with a 1-2 hour turnaround from vehicle arrival to delivery back to the collision center! VCC’s will be able to keep Length of Rental (LOR) in line and provide collision centers with a sublet profit center!
Another major issue our industry is facing is the shortage of ADAS trained service technicians! Today, a majority of dealership service departments are not properly trained or equipped to perform calibrations while less than 20% of the collision repair industry are properly trained and equipped to handle ADAS diagnosis, repairs, and recalibrations. Because of this shortage some remote scanning and calibration service companies are placing personnel in collision centers to connect scanning devices and help repair facilities scan, diagnose and calibrate vehicles. Because of this shortage I would not be surprised to see qualified technicians from other countries utilize the internet and other technologies to perform remote diagnostics and repairs in the repair facilities in the U.S. and Canada.
With that said, our industry needs to invest in technology, training, and recruiting to fix this technician shortage. While we have several organizations and initiatives in play today, it’s time to coordinate/organize/consolidate these efforts!
Another “elephant in the room” is liability! A vehicle equipped with ADAS technology that receives an improper repair/calibration could fail to judge the distance to a vehicle in front or one approaching from the blind side, causing a crash that results in injuries, deaths, and massive financial liabilities. Because of the newness of the technology, case law involving ADAS has not produced any clear precedents. Yet lawsuits regarding collisions in which a repair deviated from an OEM’s specifications have yielded enormous damage awards. It’s not a stretch to make the same connection with the mishandling of ADAS repair and recalibrations.
Today, repairers and insurers “quibble” over the cost of a scan and soon will “do battle” over the cost of calibrations, when both should focus on a safe and proper repair! Look, if the shop cheats or does shoddy repairs they should be held accountable. If an insurance representative pushes a repairer to perform a repair that does not meet OEM repair recommendations, they should be held accountable as well.
In my mind, the first step towards proper and safe repairs is knowledge! Everyone needs to know what ADAS technologies are on the vehicle. The best answer to this is vehicle build data! If OEM’s want their vehicles repaired properly, they should provide this information to the industry! Knowing what ADAS technology is on a vehicle leads to a better repair plan, better and faster repairs, less supplements, more required calibrations and a safe and proper repair.
Next, the industry needs to agree on the importance and need for proper research! Everyone agrees it is critical to research repair procedures prior to and during the repair process. What we don’t agree on is how long does it take per repair and how does a repair business get reimbursed for this time? In the mechanical repair and other industries, it is common to see “diagnostic time” on repair orders/invoices. Our industry needs to a) create a way where research time can be measured objectively (Alldata and OEM’s let’s come up with a solution) and b) agree to reimbursement for that time!
Another critical piece of our industry’s ADAS and Calibration game plan is documentation and the “Bullet Proof” file. When it comes to ADAS repairs and calibrations, attestation is critical! Images, videos, scan reports, alignment documentation, frame and measuring documentation, calibration procedures and reports, as well as detailed (“Dynamic Systems Verification”) road test must all be documented and linked to each VIN#. Proper and accurate documentation MUST be part of every ADAS repair and calibration! If there is no documentation or attestation, how can a repairer, insurer or OEM prove the repair and calibration was performed properly and all systems operated as designed when the vehicle was delivered back to the consumer!
I know our industry has experienced many technology-driven changes in the past such as frame to unibody, lacquer to multi-stage paint, handwritten estimates and repair orders to electronic estimating, etc…etc… In my opinion, ADAS technology is THE game changer. It changes EVERYTHING!
What is your Game Plan?