Loud and clear

Autoglass used the recent Autoglass Live event launch its ADAS Total Calibration Solution, and Aftermarket was there to learn more

Published:  23 September, 2019

Bright sunshine, blue skies, and 25°C. You could not have picked a better day for a live automotive event, featuring outdoor demonstrations of equipment, and more pertinently for readers of Aftermarket, the launch of a new ADAS solution. That is what Autoglass had on offer, when it launched its ADAS Total Calibration solution featuring what it describes as 'over the air' support at its Autoglass Live event in July.   

You couldn't pick a better setting either. Parent company Belron International's Milton Park HQ, just off the M25 near Egham is an impressive modern venue. Something had to give though: "In preparation for this event," said Autoglass  Sales and Marketing Director Neil Atherton, "we made a request to our head office colleagues that they work from home today. So a big apology to them, as I think Thursday is Yoga and Pilates day." You can't have everything then.

200 decision makers from across the insurance, fleet and automotive industries were there instead, on hand to see a number of presentations from the glass provider. These four sessions divided into zones looked at the customer journey, the aforementioned Total Calibration Solution that we will go into in more depth later, operational excellence, and minimising risk. It was here, in zone 4, that Aftermarket started the day.

Minimising risk
For us, the most interesting element was the ADAS side. The purpose of this session was to look at the trends impacting on vehicle glass, no pun intended. It also looked at the risks around quality and safety. This included the effect of increasing glass complexity, and of course the ADAS factor. "Windscreen repair is more important now than it has been in the past," observed Eddie Irvine,  Operations Director, Franchise Markets, at the start of the session.

Autonomous driving will also have an effect. "On the 1-5 scale of autonomous driving," said Ernst Bakker, Sales Development Manager, "we are around level 2. Here we have cruise control, emergency braking etc, all the systems that help the driver. At level 5 you no longer have a driver, you have passengers."

Eddie observed: "This is being driven by the need for safer cars, which is why we are seeing more and more ADAS penetration. To get a EuroNCAP 5 star rating, a vehicle has to have a minimum of one ADAS system.

"The ADAS market in Europe is expected to double by 2025. This causes the automotive industry some real challenges to move towards safer cars. About 9% of the current UK car parc is fitted with a forward-looking camera. SBD predict that by 2024 it will be 29%. That's massive growth, and will be linked to windscreen replacement."

Glass thickness decreased greatly over the last 15 years, while the size of windscreens has increased. With ADAS sensors being placed in windscreens, there is more strain on a larger, thinner component that is being asked to do  more than ever before. This makes proper bonding of replacement windscreens vital for safety on a number of levels, as well as the right glass. This session included a demonstration of how windscreens can be scanned to check it is correct.

This all helped to build a picture of how central ADAS is becoming to any number of sub-sections within the broader aftermarket.
On our way to finding out about the new offering, The next session provided a picture of the customer journey in a form of live performance, wryly described as a "scripted reality extravaganza". In it, four 'typical' customers and their windscreen replacement experiences were performed. From here the next stop was a presentation from IMI CEO Steve Nash.

Gary Lubner, CEO of Belron International received a certificate that shows that Belron is now an Accredited IMI International Centre. "The fact that we are now accredited for ADAS jobs as well is a big thing" said Gary. "So much ADAS is going on, I am sure for some of you this has come as a huge shock.

"We recognised this trend back in 2014. In 2015, worldwide we did 5,000 ADAS recalibrations. This year, we will do close to 800,000 ADAS calibrations worldwide.100,000 of those will be done here in the UK. Next year I think we could be doing double that again. I can assure there is no other organisation in the world doing that much calibration. No one is even close. What does that mean? If we are doing that many calibrations, we have to make sure we are using the right technology. Now, with the 'over the air calibration' service, we can service 98% of vehicles that are able to be calibrated. It also means we have to put enormous effort into training our technicians." He added: "ADAS is here to stay, and it is a fact that we have to deal with."

Total Calibration
Moving onto what was for us the main event, Neil Atherton introduced the Total Calibration solution.

First, he provided some context: "We have 560 trained ADAS technicians, of whom about 170 have been through the IMI accreditation process. The others will follow as we continue to roll out this training. I envision all of our technicians being ADAS-skilled in due course. We work with three partners, Hella Gutmann Solutions (HGS), Bosch and TEXA. In the UK it is primarily HGS. These tools allow us to calibrate, cameras, radar and lidar. We mainly carry out those calibrations in our fitting centres, but some need to be done dynamically. Approximately three-quarters of cars need to be done in a static environment. The rest are calibrated dynamically on specific road conditions. At present we have 73 fitting centres around the country. We plan to open another 10 during this quarter. We will continue to review our footprint as demand continues to spiral up.

"However, we are not able to calibrate everything, the primary reason being that when manufacturers launch a new vehicle, it takes time for the programmes and data to be released to the aftermarket. The likes of HGS and Bosch then need to reprogramme their systems to allow us to do it. Typically we see a lag of about six months. In those situations, we have had to go back to the dealer network to recalibrate the newest cars."

Explaining the Total Calibration Solution, Neil said: "What we are launching today, with new partners, gives us an ability to delve straight into the vehicle manufacturer's software, effectively giving us the tools that are available to the dealership."
The key is the over the air device. Autoglass has an exclusive partnership with  the provider, and the company will be the only one offering the service.

Neil explained how it works: "The technician plugs this device into the OBD port. That will then wirelessly connect with our hub of master technicians. They can operate the software and dive straight into the manufacturer's own databases. They will then communicate back through to the car, via the box, and they will communicate with the technician to explain what's happening on the journey. When the journey is fulfilled and the car is calibrated, they will send an electronic certification for the car. We can then install that in the cloud so we have got evidence of that calibration process taking place."

Explaining what it means, Neil said: "The Total Calibration Solution allows us to fulfill nearly 100% of calibration requirements without needing to return to the dealer network. The primary benefits are twofold. Firstly, the customer journey is much better. Secondly, in the two-stop-shop solution currently in place there is currently an element of risk in the windscreen replacement and then the calibration. Doing it in one go eliminates that risk. It also allows us the opportunity to serve the market. We can do that through a number of options. This solution gives us the opportunity to do an OE diagnostic scan."

In conclusion, Neil said: "This over the air Solution will eliminate the need for us to go through the dealers, it will enable us to be able to deliver a full diagnostic check, part coding and ADAS calibration, it reduces the risk, and it reduces key-to-key times."

Closing thoughts
Following Neil's presentation, we were able to see the Total Calibration Solution demonstrated in the on-site workshop. The live display from the Autoglass technicians showed that the technician in the workshop was provided with additional support from the Autoglass master techs via the device. The master tech provided information to the technician so he could make adjustments to the camera to put it back in alignment.

With one of the business models for ADAS being one provider in an area taking on the financial burden of the ADAS investment, Autoglass are in a good position to become market leaders if they chose to target independent garages looking to action ADAS work. With the OBD port threatened with closure within the next few years, and VM access being a problem, it is unclear if this is a long-term solution, but it is certainly an additional level of support that offers the garage sector an alternative on the ADAS question.

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