A panel of motor experts discussed the challenges of repairing cars equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, at a webinar organised by Post in association with Auto Windscreens.
Left to right: Jonathan Swift, director of content, Infropro Digital; Rupert Armitage, managing director, Auto Windscreens; David Elphick, parts and accessories sales manager, Mazda; Thomas Hudd, operations manager, Thatcham Research; and Dan Freedman, head of motor development, Direct Line
When new technology makes driving safer, meaning potentially lower insurance premiums, what’s not to like? Advanced Driver Assistance Systems can take many forms: cruise control, lane departure warning, intersection assistant, blind spot monitor, collision avoidance, to name a few.
As ADAS in its many guises becomes increasingly widespread, it throws up a host of repairer – and insurer – challenges. Post and Auto Windscreens discussed these head on in a recent webinar that brought together a group of experts.
The recalibration challenge
The panel agreed there was a knowledge gap when it came to most drivers and their ADAS-enabled cars. Many may have no idea what is fitted as standard, what could have been added in a used car or even if they have the technology switched on. But one fact is increasingly clear: ADAS is fitted on a growing number of cars and around 10% have windscreen-mounted cameras. ADAS is common on newer models, and no longer just limited to prestige marques. It is expected the proportion will rise to around 40% by the end of 2020.
ADAS has an impact on many parties, including manufacturers, customers, technicians and insurers that often pay for repairs. Fleet managers and people who drive company cars are particularly affected as they typically tend to have new models at their disposal.
Repairing windscreens used to be a relatively straightforward task but recalibration – or resetting windscreen sensors – means it is now specialist and must be done correctly. If not, the technology may fail to work, and the risk of an accident may rise.
Research by the European New Car Assessment Programme has shown that autonomous emergency braking, when it functions correctly, reduces rear-end collisions by 38%.
When an ADAS-enabled car needs serious repair, a range of technology could require replacing. Recalibration can be carried out in a workshop and/or with the car being driven and tested by a technician.
If the sensors aren’t recalibrated correctly, they may fail to warn of a potential danger. If this results in an accident, there are clear liability issues. This is something that insurers and the wider industry must address.
Hudd said the march of ADAS is unstoppable and that those customers expecting a fast fix need to have their expectations managed, as recalibration will need to come after physical repairs: “There is no doubt it adds an extra step to the repair process.”
Armitage stressed the risk of rushing through or skipping recalibration: “There is a general expectation that there could be an accident because there was no recalibration or it was incorrect, we need to work together to rule that out now.”
The right process
While the market may open in the future, panellists agreed that currently only manufacturers should handle recalibration, via their dealer networks.
Elphick pointed out: “You need the right tools and people and that means they will have been trained by the manufacturer.”
Auto Windscreens has opted for all recalibration to be handled via manufacturers as standard. “It is the best solution for the customer,” Armitage said. “This means explaining the repair to the customer and why it may not be possible for them to have the job completed on their driveway, for example.”
Clearly, some customers may not be pleased if a job cannot be handled at a time and place to suit them. Hudd commented: “There needs to be a whole education piece around this. Many don’t know what is on their vehicle in terms of ADAS and what they should do if a repair is needed.”
Freedman agreed: “Many don’t realise there is going to be an extra triage process and that they will have to wait longer.”
Furthermore, apart from the repair having to be done in a workshop, insurers may well want to know these are manufacturer-approved, meaning less choice, further distance and longer waiting times.
Call for collaboration
The current state of affairs means that there is no single look-up portal for seeing what kit is on a car and, for example, if the parts are from the manufacturer or elsewhere. This is increasingly set to result in concerns for insurers and repairers in addition to potentially jeopardising safety.
Hudd said it is vital to establish “a better connection between insurers, motor retailers and repairers. There needs to be a way to sort the fact from the fiction.”
Thatcham is already engaged in this work and has launched a voluntary code of practice for repairers with a second version under way and has a working party in place.
Freedman said: “We can’t expect standardisation of ADAS from manufacturers but we could around the process; this would help a great deal, including with the costs.”
If all cars had the same technology fitted and repairers knew exactly how replacements had to be made, it would make life a lot easier.
But this is the cut-throat car manufacturer market, where being the same has no credence. There is talk of a standardised interface between ADAS applications, but panellists said for the short term, they supported more standardised terms and processes. Hudd said this is on the agenda but it will take time to see progress: this could take as long as two years.
The manufacturer market is a global one and ADAS advances are happening incredibly quickly, meaning it can be hard for even approved technicians to be fully up to speed.
Insurers will typically have relationships with windscreen and other repairers, but ADAS means bringing in other parties via manufacturers. Freedman pointed out that Direct Line has its own repairer network and he hoped this would in time be ADAS repair-enabled.
In the short term, it could be argued that ADAS could push insurer costs up. But in the longer term, Freedman said there might well be premium savings if the number of accidents continues to fall.
Turning off the technology
Even so, while more data needs to be gathered, it is far from an exact science. ADAS is about increasing safety, but some aspects can be turned off, rendering it useless. For example, some drivers may not want to listen to a warning beep if they are reversing or driving down a narrow road.
Repairers with insufficient knowledge may also unwittingly turn safety features off and so create a hazard. If a car isn’t recalibrated, it may lose a lot of its safety features.
Taking choice out by requiring manufacturer involvement creates block exemption but controls can also mean higher standards. Elphick explained: “When we do a launch, the dealer will have purchased the right repair equipment and we will do a suite of technical training before it goes on sale.”
Armitage warned that standards have to be high: “No one wants their car to have different bits of kit on it.” And Hudd urged repairers to have proper audit trails with ADAS repairs.
The road ahead
The panel felt that in the future, ADAS could be a part of MOT tests. They discussed other scenarios: what if customers choose not to have their vehicles recalibrated? Freedman said currently this would not result in penalisation, but insurers may start looking at this issue.
Certainly having policyholders on side will be necessary if they are to wait longer for repairs and to start learning more about their car’s technology features.
Freedman added that currently drivers are split between those who favour ADAS, those who are on the fence, and ‘petrolheads’ who are sceptical.
No matter their views, ADAS is here and getting more prevalent, as panellists concurred the industry and drivers are “on a journey to acceptance”.
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