Uncalibrated ADAS Vehicles: The Dangers They Pose to Drivers
The honest truth about ADAS calibrations is that they are not being taken seriously enough and it is ultimately placing driver's lives and pedestrians at risk. We as an industry have to be better at servicing the technology of the future that is assisting us in maintaining safe driving conditions. Body shops, mechanical shops, glass shops, and even tire/alignment shops need to be aware of calibrations and be educated enough in order to avoid potential lability issues. From a vehicle owner's standpoint, it is never a wrong thing to learn more about how your vehicle operates. It's okay to ask some critical questions about your vehicle's repair procedures before returning your vehicle to the road.
It doesn't take a long time browsing the internet to find cases in which ADAS systems operate incorrectly due to the vehicle not receiving proper calibrations. All over the internet you can find case after case of brakes triggering unexpectedly, a car's steering wheel trying to pull a driver off the road, or tests highlighting a vehicle's inability to brake in time before colliding with test obstacles.
The goal of this post isn't to scare you, but to showcase just how important it is to calibrate ADAS systems. It is quite remarkable how much assistance we receive from these features and how effective they can be in keeping roads safe. For a shop that services vehicle's in any manner, I hope this article enlightens you the next time you repair a vehicle so that you may think about the possible calibrations needed. If you're reading this as an operator of a vehicle who now, or in the future, may receive collision repairs, windshield replacements, any alignment or suspension work, or other vehicle related procedures, I hope this article resonates so you may ask about calibration procedures before your vehicle is returned to you or a loved one.
The first area of ADAS calibrations I want to touch upon is windshield/front camera calibrations. The everyday driver, and for that matter even the everyday body shop, often don't realize that after a windshield replacement the camera has to be calibrated no matter what. The camera's on these windshields help provide the vision for ADAS features like Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Keep Assist (LKA), and more. In the following scenario, we will see what happens when a man receives a windshield replacement and is not fully informed of proper calibration procedures.
"Mike Ash’s 2016 Acura MDX equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) tried to steer him into the next lane and oncoming traffic after he had the windshield replaced. The ADAS in Ash’s vehicle uses several sensors, including a camera attached to the windshield where the interior rearview mirror is attached. Ash said while he knew the camera was there, he didn’t understand that after a windshield replacement, the camera should be recalibrated in order to help avoid collisions. In addition, he was not alerted of the potential safety hazard by the technician, other than being told he should have the camera checked the next time he visited his dealership, according to the CBC article" (BodyShop Business Staff Writers. (2018, June 25). Vehicle Directs Man into Oncoming Traffic After ADAS Camera Was Not Calibrated. BodyShop Business).
This is a perfect example for both a body shop as well as a vehicle operator. In this situation the technician, in a vague manner, improperly informed his customer of the importance of immediately calibration his vehicle. Fortunately, the driver did not get in an accident but he was at a potentially high risk to do so because of a uninformed mistake by the technician. This story should be a key indicator why the calibration process should be taken serious as foregoing the correct repair procedure can result in putting driver's at risk on the roads.
ADAS systems are also relayed information from front radar sensors often found behind the vehicle's front emblem or behind the front bumper. These sensors, just like the front camera, need to be calibrated after certain situations in order to make sure the radar is aimed and processing the correct information in front of the vehicle. The information these radar sensors are looking for is the distance between your vehicle and objects and/or other vehicles in front of you. If this radar unit is not working properly the vehicle can experience issues such as an inability to apply the vehicle's brakes as it will not read the accurate distance between the vehicle your driving and the objects and/or vehicle's in front of you. According to Sean O'Malley, an employee for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety who spoke with Fender Bender, he found out from a coworker what happens when a radar unit fails to be calibrated.
"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" (Beaton, Kelly. (2019, April 29). Issues Persist with Uncalibrated ADAS Systems. Fender Bender).
O'Malley himself continued saying...
“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” (Beaton, Kelly. (2019, April 29). Issues Persist with Uncalibrated ADAS Systems. Fender Bender).
Are we starting to see how imperative it is to make sure ADAS systems receive proper calibrations? Even this radar unit being off only two degrees is relaying vastly different information to the vehicle than what it would be if it was correctly calibrated. The sad part of this story is the vehicle was even paid to receive a calibration from the insurance company! The insurance companies know how important these calibrations are as OEM repair procedures will include them if necessary so there is absolutely no excuse as to why these calibrations are not being completed.
According to an article from Collision Repair magazine, tests are even being done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to see what happens when these cameras or sensors are off and misaligned.
"The IIHS recently conducted a study where they intentionally mis-calibrated the front camera. When the front camera was off by just 0.6 degrees to the right – a tiny fraction – the car misperceived the lines on the road by about two feet on either side. This small deviation caused the vehicle’s autobraking to fail spectacularly when they tested it, causing the car to smash into an obstacle at 32 km/h when travelling at a driving speed of 40 km/h. What would have happened if the camera was misaligned by 1 degree? 3 degrees?
ADAS recalibrations are often invisible to scan tools. You might think that there’s an easy solution: scan the car, and if there are no faults, everything is working fine. But that’s a dangerous myth that needs to be dispelled. By now, we all know that there may be fault codes in the car even if there aren’t any dash lights. But did you know that ADAS systems can malfunction without immediately creating a fault code? We saw an example of this in a recent article on a malfunctioning Nissan radar system. Only after driving the vehicle for approximately 15-20 minutes did the ADAS sensor indicate a malfunction and create a code. Just repairing the car in the body shop and performing a post-scan would not have flagged the issue" (Collision Repair Mag. (2019, June 14). The collision industry needs to get serious about ADAS calibration. Collision Repair Mag).
The margin of error is miniscule as we can see from this example. A difference of only 0.6 degrees on the front camera caused the vehicle's brakes to not apply themselves in time. Every degree counts when it comes to ADAS systems. In addition, another critical message in this article is also that a clear post-scan DTC check does not eliminate the need for a calibration. These ADAS systems may seem intact and operating correctly but procedures must still be followed because we can see how much of a difference a minor offset in a direction can cause mayhem.
My goal in this post is not to scare body shops, mechanical shops, tire shops, etc., and it is certainly not to scare vehicle owners out there. The goal of this post is to show the automotive industry is changing, vehicle's are changing how they operate, and we simply must remain educated and informed on the fast moving steps that are being created and implemented towards autonomous vehicle's. The future in today's world is always now. We as an industry must constantly be vigilant in keeping up to date on the trends and changes in our field of work. From a shop stand point, whenever you may work on a vehicle, whether it be collision repair, windshield replacement, or minor work near an ADAS camera or sensor, make sure to do some research and find out what may need to be calibrated on the vehicle. As a vehicle owner, take initiative in asking whether or not your vehicle may or may not need calibration(s) whenever you may need services done on your vehicle. When in doubt if neither parties are sure whether the vehicle may need calibration serviced don't hesitate to call us here at Crown Collision Solutions. As the saying goes, "it's better to be safe than sorry".