Technology is being deployed rapidly in today’s vehicles; capabilities such as sonar and radar have been prevalent for years, but with the introduction of forward-facing cameras and the fusion of sensor technologies, the chance you’ll see one in your service bay is high. Many of you have experienced the sonar warning features that prevent you from bumping into the car behind you, or the vehicle next to you when parking. Located behind the bumper covers of millions of vehicles, these systems have become common place. Another common technology is the adaptive cruise control systems that use forward-facing short and long-range radar to keep a safe distance between you and the vehicles in front of you.
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Then came the introduction of technologies like lane departure warning, autonomous park assist, and autonomous emergency braking. These technologies are being adopted at a rapid pace led, by autonomous emergency braking, or AEB, which today numbers more than 18 million worldwide. It’s interesting to note that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) was poised to mandate AEB, but was approached by the OEMs with a proposal of voluntary commitment by 20 manufacturers to implement AEB on all vehicles sold in North America by September of 2022. What does this mean for you? It means in order to be service ready for your customers, you must be able to service these systems properly before they arrive at your business.
This opportunity has presented itself to us many times before in the form of ABS, Stability Control, TPMS, etc. If you recall, these systems tended to be fairly robust and didn’t cause too much stress for many years, giving us a chance to learn our way through them. But in the case of Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS), we have a question of when to service or calibrate that must be answered. There is no doubt we as an industry can handle this technology just like we have with others in the past, however, this time we need to be better educated going in due to the passive nature of these systems. By passive I am referring to the fact that ADAS systems, while constantly monitoring and adjusting, are not reacting in a visible or noticeable way until there is a need to do so. This means if we have not adjusted or calibrated the technologies properly, there is a chance these systems will overreact or under-react to the situation at hand. Either of these conditions could result in an accident or harm to the motorist. While liability is in play here, the fact is the OEMs have invested tremendous capital to validate the technologies and to create robust failure modes that keep motorist safe. However, this means we need to follow the processes they have designed when servicing and calibrating ADAS systems.
In order to understand how to calibrate ADAS systems, it is best to start with the basics. In most all cases the first step in a calibration is to locate the centerline of the vehicle; how this is accomplished differs by OEM. Some use fixtures attached to alignment machines, while others use a simple plumb bob and tape measure coupled with some simple trigonometry. Remember when the teacher told you to pay attention during math class? This is why.