While the importance of ADAS calibration must not be understated, Rob Marshall discovers why it is necessary, what common mistakes are made and asks if the tech really is flash in the pan.
Like many other types of progressive technology, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) were introduced to very high-end executive models before their applications became more widespread. In the early days, even many main dealers decided not to equip their own workshops with ADAS calibration equipment, despite having the option, leaving the responsibility to a manufacturer’s sole UK technical centre. Since then, franchised workshops have adopted a different stance and the aftermarket must follow suit. Chris Dear, Technical Director of Absolute Alignment revealed that, “Every garage we now go into is aware of the need now, or in the near future, for ADAS. This has changed from a year ago, when some garages had no idea what ADAS was. The market is just getting bigger.”
ADAS, therefore, has been available for a surprisingly long time and is one reason why Bosch Automotive justifies its almost 20 years’ worth of experience, making ADAS repair/calibration equipment. Hella Gutmann Solutions, the equipment division of the global OE supplier, Hella, is also renowned in the aftermarket ADAS scene. The company realised that the aftermarket requires relevant calibration equipment and suitable training, which led to the launch of its first aftermarket ADAS apparatus, the Camera and Sensor Calibration (CSC) tool, six years ago.
Indeed, ADAS technology continues to develop. Euro NCAP started assessing driver assistance technologies ten years ago. Today, in order to gain a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash safety score, a new car model must have Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Support System, and Speed Assistance Systems available throughout its entire range. Ironically, motorists are confusing these emergency systems with pure autonomous technology and crashing as a result of over-relying on ADAS. Even so, any independent workshop must include ADAS calibration as part of its duty of care, to ensure that these emergency systems are working perfectly. The consequences of not doing so can be serious; a misalignment of a windscreen camera by one degree can cause an inaccuracy of up to seven metres, for example.
While a driver is responsible for controlling the vehicle, the workshop has a duty of care to ensure that all safety- related repairs are carried-out correctly. As with all jobs, the workshop could be liable for events that occur as a result of an incomplete repair. At best, this could result in an illuminated fault warning lamp, because many (but not all) systems incorporate self-test algorithms, and a dissatisfied customer revisiting your premises. More seriously, the system might be triggered unexpectedly, creating a dangerous situation on the road. For example, a vision system might not be able to determine correctly whether a pedestrian is waiting at a kerb, or crossing the road; an inappropriate automated application of the brakes, or steering, might result. Similarly, an incorrectly calibrated adaptive cruise control sensor may assess a car in another motorway lane, rather than the vehicle in front, resulting in the car either accelerating, or braking, at inappropriate (and potentially, unsafe) moments.
A GAME OF HIDE AND SEEK
When presented with a vehicle, it is not always obvious which ADAS systems are fitted. Just as many cars of the 1970s and 1980s shared the same wiring loom between the basic and top-of-the-range versions of particular models to realise cost savings for the manufacturer, certain modern cars are being equipped with the same hardware but some lesser trim variants might lack the relevant software. Therefore, should you notice either a sensor, or front-mounted camera, present through a small cavity in the top centre of the windscreen, do not presume that it works. Perform a full diagnostic scan, to determine which ECUs are present, to provide a better idea of a particular car’s specification. For example, a current BMW 5-series can feature Lane Departure Warning, Collision Warning, Emergency City Brake, Pedestrian Warning, Active Cruise Control, Night Vision, Parking Assistant, Parking Assistant Plus and Adaptive Headlights, at the very least. Each one, or combination, of these systems will have a different sensor configuration, requiring a specific calibration routine. Bosch recommends that its KTS diagnostic tool and ESI [tronic] 2.0 software can determine which system is fitted and will detail the appropriate calibration processes. Conceived as a modular system, Hella Gutmann Solution told us reassuringly that its well-established CSC tool is developed continually to keep pace with the rapid developments of ADAS.
Generally, you will encounter two types of hardware. Radar/ lidar/ultrasonic sensors detect distance and speed; vision cameras are used for object detection and positioning. The main problem is finding them, because their locations vary even between models from the same carmaker. The current Volkswagen Golf, for example, has the active cruise control radar sensor mounted beneath the grille, whereas the Passat has it installed behind the front ‘VW’ badge. Older Volvos used to have their Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) cameras situated within the door mirrors; with the current V90, the radar sensors are mounted to the back face of the rear bumper.
While these camera/sensors appear remote from each other, they do not work independently. Therefore, you might discover that one faulty, or uncalibrated, ADAS system might affect another one.
The majority of ADAS systems require recalibration after any work has been carried-out that affects the suspension geometry, such as replacing track-rod ends, suspension arms and springs/dampers. Hella Gutmann Solution’s Head of Business Development, Neil Hilton explains: “Incapable diagnostic tools, lack of knowledge, expertise and training, combined with unsuitable processes, are proving to be real headaches with maintaining the calibration of these critical safety systems.”
Bosch told AT that it offers solutions to workshops that wish to conduct ADAS calibration only when the technicians have been trained appropriately and are aware that every manufacturer’s implementation of the sensors varies; even if the same sensor is used on a different model, the setting procedure can be different. You should also ensure that you possess the appropriate diagnostic systems and calibration hardware to cover both the vehicle model ranges and ADAS systems that you intend to calibrate. For example, static calibration of radar-type systems (such as Adaptive Cruise Control, or Active Emergency Brake) tends to require a reflector set positioned at a known distance and angle for calibration. The camera-based ‘vision’ systems require to ‘see’ a specific target pattern, printed on a board.
THE FUTURE OF MANUAL CALIBRATION
While static calibration procedures differ, the hardware’s position in relation to the vehicle remains critical. This is why setting-up the car and equipment takes the most time; the calibration adjustment itself is very quick. With this in mind, it can be argued that a painstaking procedure that has to be followed to the letter seems to be at odds with the high- tech nature of ADAS systems. Are auto calibration systems about to appear, which would negate the relatively fiddly and expensive but critical calibration procedures? Hella Gutmann Solutions told us that it does not expect auto-calibration to become a reality within the next five years, because it is more costly for the carmakers to develop and install. Furthermore, auto-calibration systems would require the owner/driver to report a problem, which is not an ideal situation for safety- critical systems. We could be cynical, however, and theorise that manufacturers prefer manual calibration to help generate service income but this, of course, presents an opportunity for you as well. Thanks to updates in hard and software being available to the aftermarket, independent workshops can take advantage of the extra business and customer retention opportunities that embracing ADAS technology can bring, especially as there are no signs of manual calibration disappearing in the near future.
TOP % TIPS TO ENSURE A SUCCESSFUL CALIBRATION
Light and Level:
Ensure that your workshop has plenty of illumination and that floors are level.
Read the instructions:
Digest all of the calibration instructions on the diagnostic tool before starting work; missing-out seemingly irrelevant tasks risks the calibration failing.
Take your time:
Rushing the set-up of calibration tools increases the chance of the calibration not completing.
Check the boot:
The vehicle needs to be emptied before calibration begins. Ask the customer to remove all unnecessary items from the interior, if necessary.
Make the car ready:
Ensure the car is prepared. For example, check that the tyre sizes and pressures are correct and the fuel tank is full, if required.