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Being Thorough in Calibrations—Dynamic or Static

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July 28, 2020—Josh McFarlin recalled an incident where one of his technicians was test-driving an ADAS-equipped vehicle down an empty road when his car unexpectedly set off an alert saying it was going to be in a collision.

McFarlin, of AirPro Diagnostics, says that an overpass triggered the vehicle’s safety sensors. After performing diagnostics, it was discovered that the sensor had been pointed too far upwards, and it recognized the bridge as a potential on-road threat. It doesn't take much to imagine the potential hazards posed by an incorrect calibration procedure.

I-CAR held their most recent webinar last week where the primary topic of discussion was, to no surprise, advanced driver-assistance systems and original equipment manufacturers. ADAS is not new technology. In fact, ADAS was initially introduced in 1948 with the first modern cruise control. But when it comes to the calibration of ADAS, you can quickly find yourself in uncharted territory. 

To calibrate something means to train it, and in this case, what’s being trained are the sensors. Sensors aid your vehicle in a myriad of ways. From lane change assistance to automatic braking to accessing your rear-view camera, sensors make it possible. For all the good they do, sensors can also wreak havoc if not adjusted properly. 

The operating procedures vary for each automaker and its models. “You can’t just look at the hardware and determine what systems or functionalities are present,” McFarlin says. But all systems generally fall under one of two categories: dynamic or static.


Dynamic Calibration

For a dynamic calibration, the vehicle must be in motion which is why it is often referred to as the “Mobile Calibration.” Eric Newell, of AirPro Diagnostics, says domestic automakers are typically dynamic by nature.

This type of calibration uses a handheld unit that plugs directly into the vehicle. Once that is attached to your vehicle, it will begin to drive at a speed chosen by the manufacturer for a pre-set distance. The handheld unit is not a “plug and play” calibration, although it may sound like one.

The unit must be monitored by a trained technician and guided through various processes to set up the system.  Dynamic calibrations require certain conditions to ensure an effective calibration. Variables include speed, road conditions, time of day, and even the visibility of road markings. Dynamic calibrations could require straight, desolate roads or winding, populated roads, it is all decided by the automaker. 

Once the vehicle has gone through this test, it should be familiar with road conditions and be able to react to unexpected events. 


Static Calibration

As you would expect, static calibration refers to the technique in which the sensors can be calibrated without having to drive the car. The immobility of the car requires a large space and without the plug in attachment used in dynamic, static requires specialized tools such as a camera and sensor calibration tool. 

“When we talk about calibration of cameras, we are talking about the fact that manufacturers are using very similar technologies, in some cases it may even be the exact same technology,” says I-CAR’s Bud Center. “But they have different names for the systems and different software driving them and as a result, they require completely different calibrations.”

Automakers have developed, tested, and proven their OEM calibration procedures, says Scott VanHulle of I-CAR.  In order to properly calibrate your vehicle, the exact specifications must be followed or it could be a matter of life and death.

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