RDN turns 1; here’s a look at past year’s tech poised to disrupt collision repairBy on
Business Practices | Education | Insurance | Market Trends | Repair Operations | Technology
A year ago, the Society of Collision Repair Specialists held the “grand opening” of Repairer Driven News, revealing its existence to the Palm Springs CIC on Jan. 15, 2015.
Repairer Driven News actually started producing content as far back as 2014, with a serious “soft opening” content push Jan. 5, 2015. But Jan. 15 is what we around here consider our birthday.
Anyway, we were trying to come up with something to commemorate completing Volume I. Then, a fellow networker at this year’s Palm Springs CIC out of the blue suggested we offer an at-a-glance collection of some the disruptive technologies and trends facing the collision repair industry.
It sounded like good one-year-look-back fodder to us — particularly after Chris Brandl of the marketing committee tried to shake up the crowd with a report on the Consumer Electronics Show technological offerings. So here we go:
Telematics technology in existence today (Progressive’s Snapshot is perhaps the best example.) allows insurers and OEMs to collect a tremendous amount of data about one’s driving performance and where and when that driving is occurring.
The main issue remains privacy: What does the insurer or OEM know about a driver, and with whom are they sharing that information?
For collision repairers specifically, the impact could be more indirect: Good drivers using an insurer’s telematics get deeper discounts and become so secure in their driving that they drop collision and comprehensive. Then, when an accident does occur, they aren’t covered and don’t send work your way.
- Subaru, Liberty Mutual partner to give STARLINK owners driving evaluation, telematics discount offer
- Allstate CEO: Customers place telematics discounts over privacy; selling driving data an option
- Panel at Canadian telematics summit to discuss automaker, car insurance partnerships
- Ford, GM gathering auto insurance-related data in new telematics push
- With eye towards usage-based insurance, GM to allow OnStar users to share data with Verisk
- 3 other takeaways for auto body shops from Progressive investor webcast
- Hacker vulnerability in modern vehicles raises questions for OEMs, insurers, body shops
As some of the articles above indicate, greater insurance accessibility to one’s vehicle via telematics can combine with the even more disruptive concepts of “connected cars” and the sensors within them.
Sensors are growing in sophistication and number, allowing a greater “black box” record of the car’s mechanical issues. This is useful if the car can alert a driver to a low battery or emergency services about an airbag deployment.
But it gets more interesting when they detect a crash and alert an OEM — or insurer — call center through the vehicle’s connectivity. The shops that call center recommends — direct repair shops or OEM-certified shops — will be an interesting new front in the “steering” controversy. General Motors has already pledged to recommend its certified network to Cadillac CT6 owners through OnStar.
Accelerometers in one’s cellphone also can be used to detect crashes, which makes things even more interesting and competitive. It’s not that difficult to envision a day where an insurer-affiliated app, an MSO-affiliated app and an OnStar-like system built into the car are all simultaneously trying to call the poor driver to hawk their own repairer networks. Cyber-ambulance chasing.
The growing number of sensors and cameras also means repairers must conduct more calibration and pre- and post-repair scans to ensure you’ve truly restored the vehicle to pre-accident condition. And we haven’t even fully entered the next generation of safety assistance features, which you’d better have working correctly or else the car might fail to protect the drivers.
- Want to fix a Cadillac CT6? Here’s what’s in it for you — including OnStar referral
- With automakers bullish on OEM-certified networks, report of decline in rural dealers could be boon for shops
- Anderson: OEM ‘virtual steering’ will be ‘OnStar on steroids’
- Verizon ‘hum’ will scan diagnostic codes, call EMS but not insurer/OEM
- CDS: Some electronics-related items to remember during winter auto body season
- I-CAR guest column: Collision repair diagnostics — the next essential collision repair process
- ‘We gotta quit relying on the dashboard light’: Why scans are more important than ever for collision repair
- With new technology in cars, calibration becomes vital with changes
- Expert: Hackers could turn dealership, collision repairer into ‘auto brothel’
We write a lot about higher-strength steels and aluminum, so we’re not going to do as much here. But here it is in a nutshell.
- They are lighter and stronger, aiding OEMs both in tougher fuel economy and crash-test targets.
- Follow the OEM procedures. (Check the I-CAR RTS and OEM One Stop portals for help finding them.) Check them on every specific vehicle repair, not just once per model year. OEMs change them.
- In many cases, heat is bad. Welding and sectioning some structural elements will be prohibited.
- You’ll repair fewer parts and replace more.
- You’ll weld fewer parts and rivet and glue more.
- Separate steel and aluminum, and have a dedicated set of tools for aluminum.
- You’ll probably MIG-braze something, so learn how to do it.
- Seriously, follow the OEM procedures.
As for the other light, strong options being considered:
Carbon fiber could be a major game changer if it scales cheaper – particularly because of its potential for 3-D printing. One company already plans to 3-D-print entire cars, and one could see a future where replacement structural and cosmetic parts parts are printed by vendors.
Magnesium has made some inroads, though it doesn’t seem to commanding the interest of the other three materials — yet.
- Experts: How different types of auto steels behave — and why you must check which you have
- Zuidema: Why heat, flame straightening will weaken higher-strength auto steels
- Honda releases repair overview for 2016 Civic: An ‘F-150 moment’ for steel cars?
- Think you don’t need to know MIG brazing? Think again, Honda says — even a cosmetic repair might demand it
- Dramatic Honda displays show why UHSS steel door ring must stay unsectioned
- Novelis: New 7000 series of aluminum alloys could be used on bumpers, crash ring
- Expert: Visits show auto body shops adjusting to aluminum well — except on seam sealer
- Expert: Shops must check with OEM to know which auto aluminum is which
- Ford, Alcoa: Micromill aluminum on 2016 F-150 more malleable, but repair procedures won’t change
- Richman on auto aluminum: ‘You’ll start to see a lot more closures’
- How auto body shops can keep workers — and vehicles — safe from aluminum dust
- Carbon fiber
- Safety considerations in carbon-fiber repairs
- Aluminum? Carbon fiber? Old news. Here’s a 3-D printed plastic car
- Nissan IDS Concept at Tokyo Motor Show is carbon-fiber, drives itself
- Intriguing developments, predictions in 3-D carbon-fiber automotive printing
- Axalta guest column: The challenges and solutions for painting advanced-material auto bodies
Auto-braking and other driver assistance features
Headlights able to curve around corners and brighten or dim based on oncoming traffic. Vehicles which maintain the lane to prevent drifting. Blind spot detection and intervention to prevent hitting a vehicle in the blind spots. Cameras instead of rear-view mirrors, eliminating blind spots altogether. Intelligent cruise control, which adjusts the vehicle’s speed to maintain a safe distance from the car in front.
And the big one for collision repair: Automatic braking, forecast to eliminate the leading source of collision business — rear-ending at city speeds.
IIHS now requires some of these to come at least as options to claim a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+. The NHTSA probably will start requiring the same, and is looking favorably upon many of these.
Unlike fully autonomous driving, few of these will require regulatory action — to our knowledge, only replacing mirrors with cameras and “smart” headlamps aren’t allowed.
This technology will increase repair severity both because of parts costs and the scan and calibration work likely necessary after a collision. But frequency will fall — and potentially fall hard. Businesses should be ready for a loss of volume within the next 10-20 years.
- BMW concept i8 replaces mirrors with cameras: ‘Dangerous blind spots have been consigned to the past’
- VW adding cheap auto-braking, lane protection to most 2016 models
- Toyota to offer cheap automatic braking, lane detection fleetwide by 2017
- GM: Chevy Malibu pedestrian auto-braking among 22 new safety technologies in ’16 MY
- Automotive News: IIHS head says adaptive headlights could be required soon for Top Safety Pick+
- Volvo to develop kangaroo auto-braking for Australian drivers; success could cost repairers millions
- NHTSA announces autobraking to be standard on 10 car brands, move will impact collision repair
- Volvo: Auto-braking tech cut rear-end crashes 28% in Sweden
- Thatcham: ‘We were surprised’ how much VW Golf auto-braking cut U.K. injuries
- NHTSA desire to expand 5-star rating, add 2nd pedestrian score could affect auto body shops
- J.D. Power: Auto customers want car tech that’d impact collision repairer business
- Progressive CFO: Automated safety car tech already cutting auto claims
- IIHS: In just 2 years, percentage of vehicles with front crash protection has crossed 50%
- CCC: Growth in standard features also pushes up repair, total-loss cost
And then we come to what some pundits are speculating could cut out virtually all collisions: Self-driving cars, which unlike humans never get tired, road rage, break traffic laws, drink and drive, or back into someone in a Black Friday parking lot.
There are many technological, legal and regulatory factors to overcome to deliver a 99.9 percent error-free car. Even if a Google, Volvo or Tesla magically solved them all to deliver a flawless self-driving car tomorrow, there’d still be plenty of non-autonomous cars crashing into each other and into these futuristic Herbies for a long time to come.
But quite frankly, with 90 percent of collisions caused by human error, one has to wonder if even the “beta” self-driving cars would do better now.
Self-driving cars work extremely well already on freeways and city gridlock, two prime sources of collision businesses. If regulators allow self-driving cars in those situations with the driver still required to keep an eye on the road (and we’re sure no one would dream of screwing around on a smartphone instead of keeping an eye on a computer driver), collision repair could start to feel the pinch from the technology. Tesla didn’t even bother to wait for regulators, offering it in a recent software update to some drivers.
- Experts: Self-driving car systems to appear gradually, must work for 11-year car life
- AP: Google, Delphi say self-driving cars not at fault in 4 accidents
- Ford, GM announce greater self-driving car focus; NVIDIA slims down, smartens AI for OEMs
- Nikkei Asian Review: Insurers to write policy for Japanese self-driving car testing; DragTimes Tesla Autopilot gets speed warning
- Volvo to accept liability for self-driving car crashes, unveils steering interface for human driver
- Toyota plans freeway self-driving products ‘around 2020,’ wants to cut intersection crashes with new ITS option
- Reuters: Google’s self-driving Lexus cuts off Dephi’s self-driving Audi
- WSJ: Self-driving Teslas coming this summer to challenge regulators, competitors
- University of Michigan’s Mcity opens to test driverless cars
- GM confirms 2017 Cadillac CT6 will self-drive on freeways, in gridlock with ‘Super Cruise’
- Reports: Self-driving, electric cars might not be so ‘green’
- Two views on self-driving cars
- Bloomberg: Mercedes E class able to self-drive on freeway in 2016
- Uh-oh: Tesla’s Elon Musk says human-controlled cars could be outlawed
One year in
All of the technology described will radically change collision repair and auto insurance. Some of it already has begun to do so, and OEMs, materials producers, and programmers seem to be intensifying the pace of innovation with each new trade show.
The automotive aftermarket is on the cusp of an exhilarating and challenging time. We’ll try to keep you as informed and prepared as possible for it in our second year.
Featured image: Always check for frame damage after a collision with a birthday cake. (moodboard/moodboard/Thinkstock)