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UK Insurer Calls for ADAS Failure Warning Signal

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June 18, 2020—UK-based insurance firm Thatcham has called for all cars with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) to be fitted with a standardized warning light that alerts drivers if the systems are malfunctioning, Autocar reported.

Autocar reported that these systems generally do no issue warning if they malfunction or need to be repaired, leaving drivers potentially at risk. Thatcham is lobbying to OEMs to solve that issue.

“What we’re asking for is a standardised warning light,” said Thatcham chief technical officer Richard Billyeald, to Autocar, “so that, for whatever reason, if any sort of ADAS system has reduced performance or functionality… there is a light—like you would get if your ABS or your airbag had a problem—that says ‘go and get it looked at’.”

Billyeald also pointed out that because these systems rely on radar and LiDAR scanners and sensors that are typically in the vehicle’s bumper or behind the windshield, they can be easily knocked out of alignment, making repairs and recalibrations difficult to even diagnose.

Even basic body repairs and certain types of metallic paint can cause issues.

“The bumper acts as a refractor for the signal,  like a satellite dish,” said Pete Eden, technical manager at the National Body Repair Association. “It [the signal] hits the bumper and it’s thrown out at 45 degrees but, if the bumper has a load of filler in it, the signal can’t get through. The metal content [of certain paints] doesn’t allow the signal to refract. Gold is the most well known for it because of its high metallic presence and, if a car has just had another coat of paint, the signal might not get back because there’s too much paint on the bumper.”

Interestingly, Thatcham said that the systems present a problem for insurers in both establishing fault after an accident, and due to the insufficient repair standards. In hopes of solving the problem, Billyeald said the insurers plans to release guidelines clarifying the insurance industry’s repair requirements.

“This year, we’ll be releasing what we’re calling the UK Insurance Requirement for the Safe Repair of Vehicles with ADAS,” he said. “We’ve come up with a set of requirements and, rather than trying to get it written into legislation, it’s a reasonably simple route for insurers to say, ‘this is what we want to see’ with repairs.”

Concerns about ADAS and the need to accurately recalibrate those systems is nothing new to U.S. repairers, but the conversation has, thus far, not been led by insurers. As those systems present more barriers to insurers, however, it’s possible that U.S. insurers will issue guidelines similar to Thatcham’s. 

According to CCC Information Services data, in Q4 2019, 2.6 percent of all appraisals included an additional entry for “calibration,” “reprogram,” “flash,” etc., up from .9 percent in Q1 2017. As additional supplements come in for repairs from Q4 2019, the percentage likely will climb to meet or exceed the 2.8 percent of Q3 2019.

Completing the proper diagnostics, determining which components are included in the repair that might require calibration, and reviewing the OEM repair procedures can help a repairer incorporate the calibration into the repair plan up front. These steps could potentially help avoid added costs and repair time identified later in supplements, that can also lead to lower customer satisfaction with the repair. Analysis of calibration entries included in appraisals between 2017 and 2019 suggest the industry has room for improvement here — less than 40 percent were included in the original estimate of record, and of those calibration with fees of $1000 or more, only 9 percent were included on the original estimate.

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