Bodyshops must look to the future

Bodyshops must have one eye on the road ahead to optimise the safety and earning potential of ADAS – advanced driver assisted systems – when new ‘autonomous-ready’ vehicles come in for repair, according to Graham O’Neill, chief executive of ACIS.

Advances in technology mean that the industry will travel from camera-enabled ‘driver-assisted’ to fully autonomous vehicles faster than bodyshops can evolve its re-calibration capability, especially as every vehicle manufacturer (VM) offers different system specifications based upon its own original equipment (OE) components.

Conservative estimates predict that by 2020, semi-autonomous cars will be on the UK roads, following a series of successful driverless trials, and by 2030, fully driverless vehicles will be on the roads.

The technology is complex with cameras controlling everything from braking, cruise control, lane departure and correction, collision avoidance, auto-parking and proximity monitors, to mention just a few current standard fitments.

The complexity means the repair requires specialisation and understanding that damaged bumpers and windscreens fitted with camera technology cannot simply be filled or repaired without re-calibrating the vehicle’s on-board computers to ensure they read the road and ride correctly, post repair.

Current re-calibration can be either static – done in a state-of-the-art bodyshop with a completely levelled floor and running a vehicle software specific to each VM – or dynamic, where the technicians drive the car with a hand-held calibration device so the camera views certain road features and conditions.

Currently, most bodyshops are shut out of this market by VM dealerships where the vehicles must be returned for re-calibration, post-crash.

But many insurance companies with their own network or repair bodyshops recognise that this approach poses additional cost and time to the repair.

There is consequent pressure for bodyshops to ‘get up to speed’ on ADAS technology to provide a one stop-shop, cost-effective repair.

Graham states that there are two options under review by the industry, ‘Currently in the UK, there is a provider that uses a reverse-engineered ADAS re-calibration technology that does not require OE parts and relies on large capital outlay from the bodyshop, although upgrades on the software come at additional cost. In addition, there are questions over how much of the vehicle parc it can cover,’ he said.