You don’t know what YOU don’t know

ADAS may be helping drivers become safer on the roads, but it is creating a whole series of new and complex questions for workshops to ponder over

Published:  10 July, 2020

The well known expression of ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ may in some cases be the reverse – that what looks like a good opportunity, actually has a hidden problem. The fitment of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) by vehicle manufacturers to provide ‘added value’ to their vehicles is mushrooming, as well as a significant number of these systems now becoming obligatory under vehicle Type Approval legislation. These twin trends offer a welcome increase in the work that will be needed to diagnose, repair and re-calibrate these systems in the workshop. However, the word ‘mushrooming’ may also have other connotations in this context with another well known expression of ‘being kept in the dark and covered in muck’  from the perspective of the independent workshop.
There are a number of problems when the implementation of ADAS is considered, not the least of which is just exactly what is defined as an ‘ADAS’. There are scant details when you start looking and there are ‘interpretations’ of the systems that fall into this category. From the legislative perspective, the transport section of the United Nations (which is increasingly the reference for vehicle Type Approval in the EU) simply shows the following:

  • Remote control manoeuvring
  • Automatically commanded steering systems
  • Dynamics (steering, braking etc)
  • Advance emergency braking systems
  • Anti-lock braking system for motorcycles
  • Electronic stability control

Alternatively, the IMI have an online training package for ADAS and the first page shows a long list of vehicle systems and asks the participant to identify which of these are ADAS. I won’t give you the answer, but just some of the systems that are listed include; parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, rain sensor, electric vehicle warning sound and traffic sign recognition. It may surprise you, but all of these are considered to be ADAS systems so clearly there is a significant difference between what the UNECE and the IMI consider to be in this category.

From the workshop perspective, the answer to what systems on the vehicle are considered to be ADAS starts with this fundamental question of ‘who defines them?’ The simple answer is the vehicle manufacturer, but this is still not a simple answer for the workshop as there are no common definitions across all vehicle manufacturers. Fundamentally, the issue is where is this information available and how do you as a workshop identify all the relevant systems on the vehicle and are working correctly before handing the vehicle back to the customer? This is an increasingly important question, as the workshop has a duty of care and liability to ensure that the vehicle is returned to the customer in a roadworthy condition and this will be increasingly difficult to do with 100% confidence. Simple work may now create a wider requirement to not only check the work that you have done, but how this affects other systems on the vehicle. A simple example would be the replacement of a track-rod end. This would normally entail a corresponding wheel alignment check/adjustment, but now this would not only mean an alignment of the steering wheel sensor and require a full four-wheel alignment – as already needed, but now a re-calibration of the camera or other sensor(s) and a check that all affected ADAS systems are working correctly.

There is now a requirement to be able to quickly and simply check what ADAS systems are fitted to the specific vehicle to allow an assessment of what additional checks and re-calibration may be needed. However, this is not so simple to do. There are typically two ways to do this – firstly use the vehicle manufacturer’s diagnostic tool to conduct a global scan of the whole vehicle to know what systems are fitted or to go to a vehicle manufacturer’s website and search their repair and maintenance information using the VIN. This raises further questions of ‘just what am I looking for?  As I mentioned earlier, there is no standardised definition of what is an ADAS across all vehicle manufacturers and even if you search for all the systems on the vehicle, are you sure that you have found all of them and then which of them are classified as ADAS?
Let’s assume that you can identify what ADAS are fitted to the vehicle and that no faults are registered (e.g. a DTC) when you have conducted the global scan, but the problem is that you will still need to conduct a test drive to check that the vehicle’s systems are working correctly, but just how do you do that and be 100% sure that they are? The short answer is that you can’t in any practical way. Take the recent examples of when Tesla vehicles have crashed when the automated systems have failed to function correctly.
This starts to open a wider question of ‘who do you trust’ and this equally can be split into the source of the information and from the vehicle perspective, the design and functioning of the system and the ability to trust that the information you have is accurate. This leaves a certain level of exposure in that you are returning a vehicle to its owner without being fully sure that everything is working correctly after what may be an innocuous repair.

Vehicle manufacturers are exploiting this inability to be able to quickly and accurately identify what is on a specific vehicle and that the work you have done does not create a liability issue – in this case not only to you as an independent workshop, but also to them as the vehicle manufacturer so that they can be sure that the ADAS on the vehicle are working correctly. The vehicle manufacturers claim that only their authorised repairers are competent to conduct the work on these ADAS and that independent workshops should not be allowed to do so.
By keeping the ability to scan the vehicle to identify the ADAS fitted to a specific vehicle is in their main dealer tools, or by not making it quick and easy to identify the information via their websites, (which they could, but choose not to), it creates the fundamental issue of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. I could see this as the exploitation of a certain ‘competitive advantage’, but what do I know?

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