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Survey: crash prevention tools are making roads safer – and repairs more complicated

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Announcements | Collision Repair | International
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New technology that helps prevent car accidents is helping make roads safer, but is also making auto repairs more complicated, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says.

The IIHS surveyed drivers whose vehicles are equipped with front crash prevention, blind spot detection, and other visibility-enhancing cameras. Among those who had the systems repaired, about half had issues with the features afterward, the study found.

“Most of the more than 3,000 owners we contacted said they had never needed to have their crash avoidance features repaired, but for the minority of owners who did, the problems weren’t always resolved easily,” said Alexandra Mueller, IIHS senior research scientist, who designed the survey. “Many had issues with the technology afterward, and some said they had to have the same feature repaired more than once.”

An IIHS spokesman said he did not have any information about whether the insurance claims process factored into the quality of the repairs being made.

“We don’t have details on any given company’s approach to the claims process with ADAS, but having an ADAS system impacted by a crash will likely add to the complexity of the claim and the repair,” Joe Young told Repairer Driven News. “That increased complexity can extend repair times and increase repair costs.”

The study was released shortly after vehicle diagnostic experts spoke out about the importance of following OEM repair procedures when making repairs. In a recent interview with Repairer Driven News, AirPro Diagnostics and Repairify spoke out about the importance of following OEM repair procedures when making repairs, doing so is essential given the advancements in technology, proper repairs are essential to ensuring safe roadways.

“The current and near-term vehicle safety technologies provide significantly safer vehicles for the motorist,” said Chris Chesney, Repairify Training and Development’s vice president. “The systems onboard are becoming more mature and robust in their ability to mitigate collisions. But they all still require the motorist to be involved and in control. As well, the other vehicles on the road that are not equipped with these systems continue to present opportunities for an accident.

“When these damaged vehicles are repaired, it is critical that they be returned to their ‘as designed state’ or we risk placing the motorist in a vehicle that cannot perform in a way that was intended. Failure to properly calibrate a sensor that should be calibrated presents a risk to the motorist by allowing them to drive a vehicle that may not react as designed when called upon. However, when a technician reads, understands, and follows the OEM processes and procedures, including a post scan and a comprehensive test drive, to ensure the affected systems are operating as designed, [that] will contribute to safer roadways.”

Chesney said Thursday in a follow-up conversation with RPN that there are two core reasons these technologies are having issues post repair.

“First, choosing the wrong scan tool will create a situation where the technician is not aware of a possible problem in a controller or system that has been damaged and needs repair,” he said. “Choosing a tool that meets the gold standard set by the factory tool will ensure the technician is aware there is a problem.

“The second issue, and in my opinion the largest, is either ignorance or apathy regarding the need to calibrate and validate these systems before returning the vehicle to the owner. Ignorance meaning the shop or technician is simply unaware of a problem due to an incomplete scan, unaware due to a lack of education or apathetic to the significance of the risk they are placing on their shop, themselves and their customers.”

Although they may be difficult to repair, crash prevention technology works, the IIHS said and pointed to a study that showed automatic emergency braking (AEB) cut rear-end crashes in half.

But properly repairing such equipment can be both challenging and costly, the report said. While a standard windshield replacement could cost $250, windshields with front crash prevention could cost at least $1,000 to repair, an HLDI study found. The extra cost is attributed largely to recalibrating ADAS features.

Of the drivers who participated in the IIHS study, those who had their windshield replaced or were involved in a crash were most likely to report post-repair trouble with features. About two-thirds said the repairs involved calibration.

The number of issues linked to calibration was a hint for IIHS that repairers are having a hard time with the calibration process, which requires special training and expensive equipment. The issue is made worse by the fact there is no standardization of the process, IIHS said.

Support to guide the process is available online. OEM1Stop is one resource technicians can use to find information about manufacturers’ repair processes. It links repairers to automaker websites to gain guidance on OEM repair procedures and OE parts.

Bruce Halcro, owner of Capital Collision Center and Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) Chairman, said the issue is twofold.

“What I see is shops being uneducated, not understanding the importance of recalibration or doing scans,” Halcro told RDN. “The other is that bill payers are not wanting to recognize the need for it, or they’re not understanding the need for it. There are instances we’ve run into where the manufacturer’s dealerships aren’t tooled up properly to calibrate their vehicles.”

Industry insiders say there have also been cases where insurers refused to cover the costs of scanning or calibration.

Some shops that haven’t properly trained their technicians are contributing to the problem, Halcro said.

“Part of it is a shop issue,” he said. “Some shops don’t train, and some shops have a different business model. And that model is, you know, the direct repair model where they’re pretty limited on what they can charge the bill payers for.”

Chesney said all players must work together to find a solution.

“To solve these challenges, it will take a cooperative effort by the OEMs, the repairers, and the carriers to find the common ground of fact,” he said. “Unfortunately, lawyers and risk managers for each participant tend to prevent the common ground of fact which is where the solution lies.”

IIHS said it’s important to track issues associated with repairs to find solutions and prevent them from discouraging drivers to adapt to such technologies. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however, with the study finding that just 5% of drivers would pass on a vehicle that had features repaired.

“These technologies have been proven to reduce crashes and related injuries,” said Mueller. “Our goal is that they continue to deliver those benefits after repairs and for owners to be confident that they’re working properly.”


Featured image credit: supergenijalac/iStock

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